Sometimes we need a boost of energy and some umph to keep going. Volunteering is food for our collective souls. That’s why United Way of Anchorage encourages people to volunteer with nonprofits during the week of Day of Caring, which is happening on Wednesday, October 4 and being celebrated Monday, October 2 through Friday, October 6.
This week, volunteers in our community have been helping—and can still help—nonprofits expand their capacity to help our neighbors. United Way is pointing folks to three places. There is still time for you to volunteer. Consider picking one of these nonprofits who are having Day of Caring events, and then email Aud Pleas, United Way’s Volunteer Engagement and Events Coordinator, to learn how you can help.
UAA Seawolf Food Pantry is holding a food drive all week to fill the shelves of its campus food pantry. Anyone can stop by and place shelf-stable food, toiletry and hygiene products or school supplies in bins to help combat food scarcity among students. United Way is supporting three bins, which are in the Student Union, the UAA/APU Consortium Library and the Professional Studies Building Common Area.
Covenant House Alaska is hosting volunteers to help landscape around its A Street location, deep clean its residential areas, and organize its clothes room. Covenant House Alaska gives youth a nourishing meal, shower, clean clothes, medical attention and a safe place away from the street. Its goal is to help them move on in positive ways with counseling, education, employment and housing.
Fresh International Gardens and Grow North Farm, two agricultural programs for people with a refugee background, are asking volunteers to help winterize their gardens and complete some other outdoor projects. These programs work hand-in-hand to encourage wellbeing, expand food-access, and support small-business development among Anchorage’s refugee communities.
Boys and Girls Club of Alaska is having volunteers prepare the Muldoon location for winter. This organization connects young people with caring adults and mentors who help support them in a safe, stable environment and offers programs that enhance their development. Prioritizing academic success, character, leadership and healthy lifestyles helps young people fulfill their potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.
United Way got to sit down with some of the people involved with these volunteer opportunities to learn about their work and share it with you. Here are their stories…
UAA Seawolf Food Pantry
Students run the food pantry, and they “really have a pulse on the needs of students coming in” and “give it their hearts and souls” according to Amanda Walch, Associate Professor of Dietetics & Nutrition at UAA. The Seawolf Food Pantry estimates that it serves between 20 to 30 students a month. However, the reach is likely far larger. Students can select items for a household of up to four members, and bags of food are also left at the Student Advising Center for students to pick up if they cannot come by during regular opening hours.
“Many people don’t realize this, but students over the age of 35 make up the largest percentage of students on UAA’s campus,” says Breeayne Dinius. She pauses and then continues, emphasizing two words, “And 45% of all UAA students are food insecure.” Breeayne is graduating with a bachelor’s in health science this semester and helps staff the Seawolf Food Pantry. “These people are trying to make their lives better. If we can take the pressure of them, that’s great.”
Donating to the Seawolf Food Pantry helps combat food insecurity among students. Estimates suggest $300 makes or breaks a student each semester. Providing food frees up their resources to pay bills, stay in school and succeed. Luckily, since UAA is in a central location in our community, any one of us can stop by and help combat hunger by depositing shelf-stable food, toiletry and hygiene products or school supplies in the bins on campus.
Covenant House Alaska
“Most people in our community don’t realize how many youth access our services,” says Kerry Reifel, Communications & Sustainability Officer at Covenant House Alaska. In FY2022, Covenant House served 520 youth, ages 18 – 24 and provided 1618 nights of shelter to teenagers, ages 13 – 17. From engagement and transitional living programs to permanent housing and workforce development, youth who come in receive “love unconditionally with absolute respect” – the mission that drives this nonprofit.
Volunteers from our community make many of Covenant House Alaska’s services possible. Reifel notes, “We create opportunities that provide positive connections for our youth, especially since many of them don’t have good experiences with adults.” People volunteer sessions doing activities with youth that they are passionate about, like yoga, cooking and beading. “Sometimes mentorships form between the youth and adults, and those relationships really help them achieve self-sufficiency.”
Covenant House Alaska has on-site volunteer opportunities for community members. It often needs assistance sorting and organizing the clothing donations, deep cleaning activity spaces, and providing therapy animals. Completing these tasks regularly ensures that the youth who come to Covenant House Alaska feel safe, comfortable and cared for. With enough reinforcement, these feelings solidify into confidence, which decreases youth’s risks of re-experiencing homelessness.
United Way of Anchorage
We are a one-stop shop for you to learn how to help lift up people in our community. You can always come to United Way to get involved and volunteer around town. Learn more about United Way of Anchorage.
We collaborate with and fundraise for local nonprofits. We research our community’s toughest challenges, advocate for community-wide solutions and raise awareness among our neighbors. We convene voices–from all walks of life, in all parts of Anchorage, with all kinds of backgrounds–and lead conversations. Our work helps our community identify and solve issues related to education, financial stability and health.
Do you want to stay informed about volunteer opportunities at nonprofits in our community? Create a bethechange907.org profile today. You will receive communications about needs, events and donations for places that help our neighbors and can search our up-to-date listings of ways to volunteer.