Volunteer and Enrichment activities are HAPPENING!

By Ally Smith

Volunteers have always played an integral role in the healing process for our children at Helping Hand Home. We value them tremendously, and their efforts working with our children who have experienced violations of trust from adults and caregivers. While at HHH, children learn to trust again by building safe, healthy, and authentic connections to adult caregivers and peers. Volunteer engagement extends this newfound trust to the world beyond Helping Hand Home, showing children that there are safe and caring individuals in our community and beyond. This will not stop due to COVID-19.

The unprecedented crisis has highlighted how interconnected people are with our mission and just how ready they are to lend a helping hand. Although our doors are closed at the moment to volunteers coming physically into Avenue B, we have adapted current practices and introduced new ways to keep both our children and volunteers feeling connected to our mission going into summer 2020.

Helping Hand Home is now giving those who have supported us through volunteer work the chance to virtually extend a hand to those in need as we are launching new and creative ways to keep the volunteer/child connection strong. Our staff have continued to step up in unique ways to make sure our children stay enriched while learning various skills, adopting new hobbies and having fun in new ways while continuing to stay safe on campus.

Jasmin Reardon, our Volunteer and Enrichment Manager, has created a new art enrichment curriculum for our children at HHH. She has a background in art therapy and has been teaching new art concepts to our children who gather with her in small groups Monday through Thursday. In this blog, Jasmin answers frequently asked questions about what the future of volunteering may look like at Helping Hand Home, and shares ideas to keep volunteers still involved.

What are different enrichment activities that are happening around campus this summer at HHH?
Aside from the art enrichment class I have been leading, the kids have gone on hikes and walks in the neighborhood. We will continue to do these things while staying home and staying healthy. To facilitate that, we will be using many different kinds of fun creative expression that we may not get to do year round. Like gardening, for example: Sam, a direct staff member, has been gardening with our children every day. It is so cool to see the boys get so excited about growing various herbs and plants. We will also be playing a ton of sports! We will be replenishing basketballs, soccer balls, the bases for the baseball field. We will be doing themed activities as we have done in the past. That is how we came up with the idea for the “Activity Kits” for the summer. These kits are a great way to get volunteers more involved without physically being here on campus. Click here for more information on HHH Activity Kits!

You mentioned Activity Kits, can you expand on what those are and how they will be benefiting our children?
We will be doing themed weeks and activities and that presents many opportunities for the community to get involved in those fun endeavors. One way to connect the community with our children is the new idea of the Activity Kits. These would be containers filled with the supplies needed for a specific activity, such as sidewalk chalk, bubbles, sprinklers, water toys, etc. that supporters could put together in their own homes to support various enrichment activities for our children. Each week, the children in our care celebrate with outside festivities, themed movies, group games and more. Fun Friday kits could be containers filled with the supplies needed for a specific activity bringing all of the celebrations directly to our campus. These kits will allow our children to experience summer joy while staying safe at Helping Hand Home. The Kits we felt were the best fit for our children were Pamper Time Kits, Skating Kits, Art Kits, and Goodbye Party Kits.

What are other ways volunteers can be more involved without physically being here on campus?

We miss our volunteers so much. We really look forward to being back in person soon. We are having so many volunteers reach out right now and they absolutely miss the kids. The Home runs on the loving time and work of our volunteers, and it has been so different at HHH without them, which is why we are creating an exciting way to keep our volunteers in the loop without physically being here on campus. We have had volunteers reach out and send us videos and post cards to read aloud to the kids. We are encouraging more people to do that! Our kids love seeing photos and drawings, they get excited to see that interaction from people outside HHH. Even if the volunteers wanted to do an interactive thing, virtual volunteering is an excellent option. Please contact me with your ideas on this! We think it is certainly something that we can facilitate to keep the kids and the volunteers connected.

With more and more volunteers reaching out, do you think we will have a plan to bring them back on campus with our kids anytime soon?

As I said above, we really miss each one of you. For now, we are crafting our plans out of an abundance of caution, and I promise to be in touch very soon with a plan when our doors reopen. A lot has changed in the past couple of months as well. Many children who were living here have gone to their forever homes, and several new children have arrived. When everything starts back up it will be a gradual on-boarding of virtual or personal meetings specific to what each volunteer does, our recently placed children, new rules, and even new roles for volunteers. It is exciting, and I cannot wait to update everyone.

Although our campus is currently closed to outside visitors, we are constantly creating unique ways to keep our volunteers and supporters in the loop during social distancing, from the kits Jasmin mentioned above to interactive messages that can be sent from the comfort of your home to our children. We are closely monitoring the safety of our staff, volunteers, and the children we serve and this continues to be of the utmost importance to us.

As you know, we cannot serve our children without the constant help and support of our incredible volunteers. We are grateful for your ongoing commitment to helping us continue our mission. If you are interested, you can learn more HERE about some of the projects that can be done at home and delivered outside to HHH by appointment. If you plan to complete a kit, or want to support our fun summer activities, please email our Donor Relations Manager, Ally Smith, at asmith@helpinghandhome.org. Also, if you have any questions at all or ideas on how to stay virtually involved with your volunteer experience at Helping Hand Home please email Jasmin at Jreardon@helpinghandhome.org.