From New York to Alaska: Couple Drives Almost 5,000 Miles to Volunteer in Anchorage

Kerry Reifel Volunteer Stories

By: Kris Johnson

Sherry and Ted Hersey have always made it a point to volunteer in their communities. When the onset of COVID-19 led to lockdown, in-person interactions came to a screeching halt, so showing up to give back was no longer a possibility. The couple got online in search of a way to continue helping others. 

“Covenant House Alaska posted an opportunity to sew laundry and gift bags for residents. That was something I could do with the fabric I already had at home and my fledgling sewing skills,” Sherry said. 

Sherry took advantage of her social media platforms to post about the opportunities and recruit people from around the country to help make the bags. 

She and her husband, Ted, then loaded up their campervan and drove nearly 5,000 miles from New York to Anchorage to volunteer. Along the way, they collected items for care bags in each state and province through which they traveled, and were thrilled to be able to deliver the bags to Covenant House Alaska in person.

This isn’t the only time the husband and wife duo have garnered charitable support across long distances. The two are avid travelers and frequently volunteer while on the road during their many trips. 

Ted says that volunteering on the road as they travel is “a chance for us to give back to the communities we visit. As we volunteer, we get to work side by side with people in the community and hear their stories.” 

They also get a closer look at the services offered and people helped by the nonprofits they visit, Sherry shared, adding that volunteering helps them “get to know a community at a deeper level than just passing through as a tourist.” 

“We have so much gratitude for the team at Covenant House Alaska for making us feel welcome and taking time to organize our volunteer week.” 

Other ways the two have enjoyed volunteering at Covenant House Alaska include cleaning the kitchen used by residents, weeding and mulching the front garden beds at Passage House, the site’s 18-month residential mother and child program. Sherry and Ted have also done some gardening, as well as paver installation, at Rights of Passage, the transitional living program for ages 18-24. They say although they are donating their time and skills to others, they have learned some new things, too.  

“We learned how to use a drum sander to strip off old paint from a deck and greenhouse area,” Ted shared. “We then power washed and painted the deck and a garden bench.”

As much as they’ve given to the shelter, the Hersey’s say they also understand how important it is to help site staff, which once involved assembling and mailing thank you letters.

Ted and Sherry plan to continue their humanitarian efforts as part of their connection to a Habitat for Humanity International program called Care-A-Vanners, where participants with their own vans, RVs, and campers travel to volunteer for a two week period.

The couple recently left Anchorage to set out on their next adventure, but says if they had more time in Anchorage, “we would have liked to learn more about the job skills training program and work with the youth, sharing our skills and hobbies of computers, photography and card-making.”

Inspired by a tour of the site where she saw a mural of mother and baby animals native to Alaska, Sherry plans to design greeting cards to sell on Etsy, and donate all proceeds to Covenant House Alaska.