Happy National Volunteer Week

April 18-24, 2021, is National Volunteer Week! Across the entire country, communities and organizations recognize the impact of the individuals dedicated to civic service. At Project Angel Heart, our lifeblood is the volunteers and the only reason we continuously provide for our clients is with your endless effort and support.

As the entire country celebrates you, I encourage you to take a moment and be with this feeling of national gratitude for your work. I also urge you to ask yourselves these questions: why do you volunteer? Why Project Angel Heart? When I check in with myself for why I’m doing something, it reinvigorates my purpose.

After a year like 2020, having purpose and gratitude is essential for a healthy, healing world. Project Angel Heart simply doesn’t have enough time or space to express our appreciation to you. Still, we thought it was appropriate for each Volunteer Resources member to share their experiences from the past year and how much you have helped them and Project Angel Heart as a whole.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

From Mark Smith, Director, Community Engagement

Mark W. Smith, CVA 2021

When I think back about all the thousands of volunteers I have had the pleasure to work with over the past 20+ years, I can honestly say the volunteers that call Project Angel Heart home are a rare and unique breed. Volunteers have genuinely understood our call to action, especially this past year, and we honestly could have NEVER made it through without the grit and love from this fantastic human force! Whether in rain, snow, or sunshine, you kept our program running and humming along like a well-oiled machine! We are immensely grateful for your support and for seeing that mutually, we needed each other. You continue to inspire me, and I shed more than a few tears when I think about the gifts of love, compassion, and time you so generously give to us.

Distribution volunteers saw some significant changes this past year. The implementation of a conveyor belt, the number of volunteers significantly reduced, good friends taking a leave, and the new requirements of wearing masks and social distancing, all while packing more meal bags than any time in history. Fortitude and determination come to mind, and every volunteer felt the same way – we have to make sure we have meals ready for delivery, not only this week but every week going forward, and as long as the clients need us.

From Tiana Clark, Volunteer Resources Coordinator

When I think of our volunteers in Colorado Springs, the first words are “step-up” because this is what our volunteers have done week after week. You have stepped up by transitioning to new pick-up locations without missing a beat – some have adjusted for more than a year now! Drivers have stepped up and added extra loads of bags to deliver and, in some cases, entire routes to help get meals delivered. To follow precaution protocols, the challenges of COVID-19 have resulted in more frequent volunteer cancellations. In each of these instances, there have been others stepping up with little notice to ensure deliveries. Volunteers have taken on new roles, and I have had many offers of help with all types of tasks! I cannot begin to list all of the process changes you have readily adjusted to each week – this has especially been the case for our distribution workers.

Because of our volunteers, we have not missed a single delivery day despite weather or pandemic! Colorado Springs volunteers have also done amazing work with bag decorating – individuals, families, schools, and so many groups have stepped up to decorate more than ever! Seeing the pictures of kindness makes such a difference to the recipient — and even staff! There are times I just stop and watch our volunteers in action and really take in just how much you do to support Project Angel Heart and our community. Thank you for always being there to step up!

From Alexandra Dougherty, Volunteer Resources Coordinator

Alexandra Dougherty 2021

Our bag-decorating program provides people of all ages the chance to volunteer and give back to the community without having to be here in person. I’ve spoken to many families with young children hoping to instill volunteerism at a young age; a meal delivery volunteer introduced our bag decorating program to her daughter’s middle school. Now that middle school uses our bag-decorating program in the school’s curriculum!

We brought back our corporate groups, both old and new! They were excited to be working alongside each other and amazed that we had not skipped a beat with the year we had. I love showing what we do and create for our clients, and they are part of that process! Also, it blows me away that individuals from the corporate groups decide to volunteer on their own time and become drivers, bag decorators, etc. 

The front office gets very busy; I could not have done it without their hard work. There are so many areas that a front office volunteer helps with, and they do it all! Whether it is a project for development, client services, administration, and volunteer tasks, they are always ready to help and tackle anything given to them. This is one shift that we relied on this year, requiring some volunteers to come and support at the front desk several times a week. 

From Kamisha Jones, Volunteer Resources Coordinator

At the beginning of the pandemic, things got a little tough around here. The unknowns of what the COVID virus was and how it would affect all of our lives made things a bit precarious. Many families or individuals reached out to Project Angel Heart during this time to get home-delivered meals since leaving the house was no longer an option for some of them. The number of clients was increasing while we were seeing our number of volunteers decreasing. As an organization, we recognized the risk and completely understood and supported those who could not continue volunteering.

However, we needed to find a solution to deliver to our clients each week with a smaller volunteer pool, which required all of our shuttle drivers and meal delivery drivers to deliver more bags and work longer shifts than usual. But, none of you complained! 

I hope you’ve realized this, but you continue to be that shining light for our clients by delivering that spirit of caring. You’ve boosted our clients’ spirits through your smiling eyes behind your mask, and they knew they could count on Project Angel Heart even through an unprecedented event. 

To all our drivers and satellite coordinators who have been through this journey with us throughout this past year: We cannot express our gratitude for not only being understanding through our scheduling mistakes and our email errors but for being flexible, available, and enthusiastic about getting meals to our clients when they needed them the most.

If not for your commitment, diligence, and concern for our clients — we genuinely do not know how we could have done it. 

From Alex Reinhardt, Volunteer Resources Coordinator

Alex Reinhardt

In early 2020, we went from a fully functioning kitchen with nearly two hundred volunteers coming each week to chop, scoop, stack, and package – to none. Everything had changed for everyone in the world, and Project Angel Heart had to figure out how to stay functioning to serve our clients. Our entire staff paused their day jobs to help dish-up meals, soups, and all odd jobs to support the kitchen. As we closed the doors to the kitchen, we knew our volunteers were figuratively on the other side, ready to rejoin us when they could. From March 2020 until today, your message to us has been “tell us when and where we can help, and we will.” 

In reintroducing kitchen shifts, we started small with just four volunteers helping portion bread once a week. The relief we collectively felt as an organization to bring volunteers back into the kitchen was immense. We familiarized ourselves with the friendly faces who showed up in a time of crisis, reminding us that Project Angel Heart was and always will be a community effort. 

Last year, we slowly reintroduced kitchen shifts, and each time we have opened them up, they’ve been filled with volunteers very eager to return. As mentioned by my colleagues, we’ve relied on many of you numerous times a week, month after month, akin to a friend or family member when you are sick or struggling. 

I hope that the pandemic is heading in the right direction, and we see more of you over the coming year. Thank you for all of your support and generosity over the past year.