The Greater Good
Nov 04, 2016 10:46AM
● By Ashley Pape
Every year at Christmastime, you’ll find Ed Folliard playing the role of Santa’s elf. While the retired fire chief won’t be decked out in head-to-toe green, he will definitely be in the Christmas spirit as a volunteer at the GRACE Christmas Cottage. “I read an article about the Christmas Cottage one year and then went to an orientation at GRACE before getting involved,” Folliard says.
Along with a host of volunteers, Folliard spends November and December setting up the cottage, collecting and sorting gifts before families in need come in to shop for their kiddos. “On Christmas morning, it’s a great feeling to wake up and know you’ve helped well over 1,000 people have a better Christmas,” he says. Last year was extra special for Folliard—he accepted a donation from a woman who had previously been on the receiving end of GRACE’s programs. “She was now able to give back, which is what GRACE is all about—helping people get back on their feet.”
Like many North Texans, Folliard has learned the value of volunteering. Not only does serving as a GRACE volunteer benefit those in need in our area, it connects him with like-minded individuals who recognize the need that exists in their own community.
GRACE is just one organization in our area that depends on an army of unpaid workers to further its cause. Since 1973, Christian Community Action (CCA) has met the basic needs of families in need throughout North Texas. Several thousand volunteers help this Lewisville-based nonprofit serve more than 10,000 individuals across five counties.
Thelma Cantu, volunteer manager, says without volunteers and donations, CCA’s funds would be diverted to administration instead of services. “Volunteers allow us to be leaner and more focused on our mission,” Cantu says. “Donations can be directed to serving our mission and not added to a CEO’s wallet. That’s what people look for when deciding which charity to support.”
While it’s challenging to quantify the value of a volunteer, a Texan’s time can be calculated at $25.11 per hour, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. When you total up the volunteer hours any given organization benefits from each year, the impact of volunteering is significant. In addition, money given by individuals account for 71 percent of charitable contributions. Foundations, corporations and bequests make up the remaining 29 percent.
“GRACE wouldn’t be able to fulfill the needs of the community without the commitment of our volunteers,” says Lara Hohweler, volunteer manager. “We make it a point to get to know our volunteers, build those relationships and keep them in the communication loop, so they can see the fruits of their own labors and see the happy faces of those they help.” GRACE also holds an annual appreciation event to recognize its volunteers and inform them of the impact they have on the organization.
While no one will argue the value a volunteer brings to a nonprofit, there are added benefits one personally gains that can’t be quantified. When you volunteer with an ongoing program, you get to witness the fruits of your labors. Seeing firsthand growth and change can validate your efforts. And when you work side-by-side with likeminded individuals, friendships and bonds can form.
Volunteering on projects that involve a skillset can help you hone your existing talents or learn new ones that may cross over into the workforce. You can also gain a connectedness to your community, increase your sense of self-worth, reduce stress, increase optimism, build camaraderie and uncover hidden talents. “The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired,” says Gordon B. Hinckley, author of Standing for Something. “One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”
ANSWERING THE CALL TO SERVICE
Depending on the organization, the job site or the program, avenues for service abound—for the very young to the young-at-heart. “Our community gardens present opportunities for children as young as toddlers to serve along with their parents,” says Hohweler, who adds that the holidays pose even more service venues for families and teens.
“The holidays are our busiest time,” Hohweler adds. “Volunteers are our workforce; we serve as coordinators.” GRACE staffs about 50 to 55 paid employees, but the amount ofpeople needed to meet the needs of the area far exceeds their manpower. From coordinating food drives to staffing the pantry, setting up GRACE Christmas Cottage to helping parents shop for their children, the roles volunteers can fill during this time of year are vast.
“As the community has grown, the needs continue to rise and so the needs for helping hands goes up as well,” Hohweler says. “We are fortunate to have such dedicated and involved people in our community. It’s easy to get people involved when the needs are present in their own backyards.”
This holiday season, CCA is looking for people to assemble 1,200 arts and crafts kits, an activity that can be done off-site at home with friends and family or as a service project for churches, scouts or students. “You can come up with your own project—a bookmarker or ornament, for example—and buy supplies in bulk to assemble at least 200 kits in your set,” Cantu says. “Just put everything in sealed plastic bags and include the instructions.” The kits will then be used as Christmas craft projects at events for area kids.
CCA will also accept new toys and gifts at Vista Ridge Mall and Stonebriar Centre and is always accepting donations at the Flower Mound Distribution Center as well as food for its pantry. “We have a specific list of items we collect for Thanksgiving food baskets,” Cantu adds.
It’s easy to get comfortable in your own environment when your basic needs are met and often exceeded in abundance. But a quick survey of the area can reveal great needs—from teaching someone to read or write or helping a woman set up a safe place for her and her children. Use this holiday season to explore options for helping your neighbors and possibly continuing that commitment to service into the new year. Not only will your community benefit from your kindness, but you will, too. That’s what we call a win-win.
Lend a Hand
Finding a place to volunteer involves a little legwork, so we’ve provided you with a head start here with contact information for some of our local nonprofits in need of volunteers. Or you can go online to VolunteerMatch.org to search for opportunities by type for organizations near you. Be sure to explore ways to help out at your local library, school and place of worship, too.
CASA of Denton County Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, CASA volunteers, are everyday people—teachers, business people, retirees, stay-at-home parents and grandparents—who are committed to making a difference for children who might otherwise slip through the cracks in an overburdened foster care system. They are appointed by judges to guide one child or a set of siblings through the system to safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible. Additional opportunities through CASA are available for those unable to commit to the 12-month minimum per case.
Christian Community Action For more than 40 years, CCA has been healing, feeding and educating families in need throughout Collin, Dallas, Denton, Tarrant and Wise counties. Headquartered in Lewisville, CCA is one of the largest private nonprofits in North Texas, providing more than 10,000 individual services each year. Opportunities for service for those 12 and older include CCA’s Food Pantry, seasonal programs, Donation Center in Flower Mound and at all four reSale stores in Lewisville, Carrollton and The Colony.
The Gatehouse As an initiative of projectHandUp, The Gatehouse’s mission is to offer women a practical hand-up with life’s challenges. The Gatehouse community has 96 apartments and includes the Washington Community Education Center with an Event Center attached, two in-neighborhood Advisor Centers, General Store, Keeps Boutique, Hope Chapel walking trails and commercial space. This community provides an environment for women and children in crisis to walk the path toward permanent change. Volunteer opportunities abound all year long for individuals, groups or corporations.
GRACE was organized in 1987 as a response to the growing need for emergency assistance services in far northeast Tarrant County, an area almost 20 miles from state, county and other major resources at that time. Today, GRACE continues to be a centralized, coordinated effort of churches, businesses and individuals donating food, clothing, monetary donations and even professional services to Grapevine, Colleyville and Southlake residents, as well as homeless and transient families in-need. Volunteer opportunities are year-round.
Kids Matter International is a Texas-based not-for-profit 501(c)(3) that has been helping children since 2006. With the support of volunteers, corporate partners and generous donations, Kids Matter has clothed, fed, educated and enhanced the lives of thousands of children and their families. Volunteers are always needed.