Volunteers are Anxious to Return to Work at Arizona Helping Hands!

Arizona Helping Hands utilized the services of 1,397 volunteers in 2019.  This army of men and women donated 13,026 hours assisting in our mission providing essential needs to boys and girls in the state’s foster care system.  They stuffed backpacks with school supplies, sorted and folded clothing donations, assisted in our warehouse operations and answered phones.  They were the driving force behind our Birthday Dreams program, gift wrapping and decorating birthday packages that we provided to 3,596 children last year.  It’s a huge endeavor to provide 300 children every month with their very own gift bag to celebrate their special day, but with this legion of workers, that’s exactly what we did!

Then the coronavirus hit!  In the month of April, we had no volunteers in our facility.  We had no corporate groups to do projects for us – for the safety of our team, and to protect our mostly senior citizen volunteers, our volunteer activities came to a screeching halt.

This put a strain on our staff to pick up some of the pieces, but I think it put more strain on our regular volunteers.  The Wednesday birthday ladies had a routine.  Their volunteer work was an important part of their regimen.  They formed new bonds, and new friendships were forged around work tables as they gift wrapped the Barbie doll for a 5-year-old in foster care, or chatted about how Joey would like his new basketball.  They laughed about the challenges of how to properly gift wrap the soccer ball for Aniyah.

The guys who help in our warehouse activities enjoyed the banter with our warehouse team, the joking around with Don, our warehouse manager, about his days in Detroit, and the teamwork of deciding where to put the latest pallet of merchandise.  Coronavirus came and disrupted what, for many, was the highlight of their week, a chance to give their time and talent to help others, and to have fun and make friends in the process.

During the pandemic, we’ve received phone calls and emails from our volunteers.  Dorothy says she is “looking forward to building Friday birthday bags again.” Vickie says she “can’t wait to get back to volunteering.”  Nancy wants to get in and organize the clothing racks, and Mike wants to hop on the forklift and move pallets around.  This work has become an important part of their lives, and like all of us, they want to get back to whatever sense of normal we can as soon as possible.

Pictured:  The Friday morning volunteer ladies assembling Birthday Dreams packages (Pre-COVID19)

At Arizona Helping Hands, we adore our volunteers.  We want to see their smiling faces around the building and can’t wait to have them working beside us, BUT we will do everything possible to keep them safe.  So we asked – when will you feel comfortable coming back to help?

The responses to our survey wouldn’t surprise you; they ran the gamut from “today” to “after Memorial Day” to “when there is a vaccine.”  One overriding theme was that they wanted to observe safety measures.  Almost uniformly, they agree to recognize social distancing, sanitize and wear masks.

Based on the feedback received, we have decided to implement “Phase 1” of our return to volunteering.  Effective May 27, limited volunteers will get back to work, filling those birthday bags, and assisting in our mission.  The lives of children in foster care will be enhanced. Jorge and Josephina will smile as they open their birthday presents, and more lives will be impacted by the loving support Arizona Helping Hands receives from our community friends.

Volunteering is so important to our day to day operations of serving the 14,000+ children in foster care, but I think it’s even more important to those who have chosen to dedicate their time and energy to our cause.  I so appreciate all who give of their days to help us make a difference for children who have experienced abuse and neglect in their short lives.  Your work matters, and we can’t wait to have you back beside us.  Due to the colorful masks donated to us by community friends, we might not see the smiles on your faces, but we will certainly see the twinkle in your eyes as you go about the important work you do!

Dan Shufelt is the President & CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, the largest provider of basic needs to Arizona’s children in foster care. Learn more about the Organization at www.azhelpinghands.org and contact Dan at dshufelt@azhelpinghands.org

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