On Thursday, March 27, we had the pleasure of hosting our annual Volunteer Appreciation Event, held at South Congregational Church. We welcomed over 100 of our loyal volunteers, who joined us for delicious appetizers prepared by HOH Chefs Lise Jaeger and Kim Bunton, and cool jazz played by Steven Donovan on piano and Mike Asetta on bass. After a brief welcome by Executive Director Barbara Shaw, Karen Bailey-Francois, our board chairperson, shared a few words about the work our volunteers have done over the past year.
In 2013, 2,500 volunteers engaged in work at Hands On Hartford programs and throughout the community, completing an amazing 29,000 hours of volunteer service. In addition to individual volunteers, we worked with over 125 volunteer groups from businesses, faith groups, schools and other organizations, and with the help of volunteers we were able to make a difference in the lives of 5,500 people in the Hartford community, including residents, guests and clients of our programs.
We love and appreciate every single Hands On Hartford volunteer, but each year we recognize some extra-special individuals and groups for going the extra mile. This year’s awards were as follows:
Faith Group Volunteer Award: He Serves Ministry
He Serves Ministry puts their faith into action, consistently answering the call to end hunger in our community. For many years they have spent a weekend every month at Peter’s Retreat, where they donate, prepare and serve a delicious meal, along with cleaning, spending time with residents and running activities. They have further opened their hearts to include donation and serving of dinners at Community Meals and have been true partners in making a difference in the lives of those we serve.
The staff and students of Trinity College exemplify leadership and dedication to the Hartford community. Students from Trinity College have logged hundreds of hours volunteering across all of the HOH programs. This includes students cleaning and running activities at Peter’s Retreat, serving guests at Community Meals, assisting pantry guests with their shopping and running food drives to benefit both the food pantry and the Backpack Nutrition Program. And this fall, Trinity kicked off a new venture to further support the needs of children in our community: working with the Trinity Community Service office and Chaplin, clubs across campus have answered the call to fill and deliver 30 backpacks each week to the Backpack Program.
Aetna has been a steadfast supporter of holiday volunteering: over the past several years, employees have generously volunteered at the annual Toy Shoppe Holiday Party, fostering a bright and cheerful celebration for hundreds of children. In addition, Aetna employees have adopted 40 families through the Adopt-A-Family program run through the MANNA Assistance & Advocacy Program, donating clothing, household items, toys, books and gifts of warmth. Aetna’s caring knows no bounds, as representatives from several departments actively seek out the opportunity to serve others across Hands On Hartford programs, including Peter’s Retreat and the Backpack Program, and customized service projects.
Hands On Hartford’s Community Engagement Program connects volunteers to non-profits through the greater Hartford area to strengthen community through meaningful civic engagement and service learning opportunities. Shipman & Goodwin began volunteering in 2011, and their service over the years has evolved to include not one but two annual customized service projects, including sending out a team of more than 80 volunteers to prepare Camp Courant for its 2013 season. Shipman & Goodwin has contributed tremendous resources of time, talent and treasure to the Hartford community, has held numerous food collections for the Backpack Program and food pantry, and has been a strong supporter of HOH in the Walk Against Hunger for multiple years.
Luis Lopez has a long history of serving others. He is always willing to lend a helping and guiding hand to others, helping out at several HOH programs and events. He volunteers weekly at the food pantry, helping clients shop and assisting with translation when necessary, organizing food and assisting at the Backpack Program. He has also assisted at the annual Toy Shoppe Holiday Party, escorting parents to the Toy Room to choose gifts for their children. And Luis is a peer assistant at Peter’s Retreat, providing a true sense of community to this program. He goes above and beyond to ensure that all feel welcomed, valued and comfortable. He gives tours to new volunteers and helps with orientation, and is a listening ear and respectful and supportive visitor with residents in times of need.
The Reg Arvidson Exemplary Volunteer Award was established by Harold and Joyce Buckingham in memory and honor of our late volunteer Reg Arvidson. Nate Fox’s dedication of time and talent were instrumental in establishing the Faces of Homelessness program in Connecticut. For over a year, first as a UCONN School of Social Work intern and subsequently as a volunteer, Nate worked to establish the Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau, working with speakers to develop their messages and advocating for them as they overcame injustices and challenges. He worked tirelessly to ensure the passage of the Homeless Bill of Rights in Connecticut. And in addition to Faces of Homelessness, Nate has touched the lives of participants in our other programs, from Peter’s Retreat, to Community Meals, and has brought energy, perseverance and a good spirit to everything he does.
We offer a special thank you to everyone who made the Volunteer Recognition Event possible – our guests, first of all, but also to the many HOH team members who volunteered their time during the event to honor those who serve the Hartford community.