Covenant House Alaska volunteer shares her passion and experience.

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We are blessed to have volunteers at CHA. Here is one of their stories:

Volunteer Terry Tarner spends her time at Covenant House Alaska doing ordinary tasks like washing clothes, folding laundry and sorting through piles of donations.

These duties may seem mundane, but Terry says these chores are actually critical to Covenant House’s mission.

“Doing laundry or organizing closets means the case managers and staff working the front desk don’t have to. They can instead take time to connect with the kids,” says Terry, who comes into the youth shelter an average of five hours a week. “Those are the people on the front lines every day, the faces that the kids really need to see.”

Terry is an Air Force veteran who started volunteering at CHA as a practicum student through the University of Alaska Anchorage. She quickly found how important volunteers are to CHA’s operations.

“The kids come here for a variety of reasons, and none of them are good,” Terry stresses. “When a youth comes back and forth a couple of times, and then finally enters CHA, they know that this will give them a better path than what’s offered on the street.”

Initially, Terry’s first volunteer duties involved running errands for staff.

“Then I started taking on the donation room,” she says, explaining the process. Donations are first sorted to make sure they’re appropriate for the young clients. The clothing is then laundered, folded and hung in CHA’s Clothing Closet. Brand new items go into the “Birthday Closet.”

“If someone has a birthday, they can choose a new pair of pants or makeup or sometimes a nice dress, something new and special they can pick out for themselves,” Tarner says. “The best part is, when a youth goes in the Clothing Closet and they literally don’t have anything. They’re just happy to find something that fits them and doesn’t look like it came from their grandmother’s closet.”

Terry adds that getting to know the youth has been the most rewarding part of her volunteer job.

“When a young client comes into our Clothing Closet and I find them something warm or new or in a particular size, they appreciate it so much,” Terry explains. “It boosts their confidence.”

Terry says here are a lot of volunteer opportunities here at CHA, and the rewards are greater than what you give. “There is always something to do at Covenant House,” she says.

From helping a youth pull together an outfit for a job interview, to helping young residents write a resume, to sorting through clothing donations, the everyday tasks at the shelter are nonstop but all crucial to the mission of Covenant House Alaska.

“Youth are just looking for a chance,” Terry says. “They’re looking for someone to listen to them, not to take care of them. It means a lot to them.”

To make a gift to Covenant House Alaska, please visit our donation page.

Interested in volunteering? Please contact our Volunteer Specialist at 907-339-4261 or volunteer@covenanthouseak.org.

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