By Mariam Mayanja — Covenant House Alaska Volunteer Writer
When you hear the words “Christmas Committee,” your imagination easily takes you to Santa’s workshop. A place run of jolly elves with joyous names like Kandi. However, Kandi doesn’t run Santa’s workshop but leads the Covenant House Alaska Christmas Committee.
Kandi Hernandez is originally from Texas and moved to Alaska four years ago following her husband’s military placement with their four children. As a mother and interior designer, it can be hard to balance all the obligations that come with work, family and volunteering. Hernandez feels committing to serve, especially around this time of the year, is important.
“No matter where you go, you [should] get involved in your community,” said Hernandez on why she volunteers.
Getting involved at CHA
Prior to the pandemic, Hernandez got involved with her community through volunteering with her church or children’s school. However, 2020 changed how folks look at engagement. In late fall 2020, she started seeking opportunities to volunteer.
Hernandez found volunteer opportunities with Covenant House Alaska last year in an internet search. “It was just totally a fluke, honestly,” said Hernandez. “I was reading about Covenant House, and I love that Covenant House reaches out to meeting like the basic needs of the youth. I just connected with those simple kindnesses.”
Shortly after learning the mission, she started volunteering to wrap presents for Christmas 2020 with her teenage son. This experience was remarkably positive for her and her family, so much so that she kept an eye on future volunteer opportunities for Christmas 2021.
Santa’s #1 helper
When an opportunity arose to lead the Christmas Committee, she jumped for it.
Volunteering with the committee has helped Hernandez use her gifts for organizing and planning in new ways.
“I know some people get like really bogged down by things like spreadsheets or being organized, [but] that almost always rejuvenates me,” said Hernandez. “I think that [volunteering] grows me in that way. God gives us these gifts, and it doesn’t have to just be in this one lane that we can use them.”
As one of the people entering the youth residents’ wish lists into the Covenant House Alaska gift registry, she often sees requests for things for their homes. With her background as an interior designer, Hernandez understands that people want their space to “feel special to us and to reflect who we are,” and enjoys being part of giving that gift.
One day, when Hernandez looks back at Christmas 2021, she will remember wrapping 300 socks with her husband and four children while her littlest put bows and ribbons on each package in the Covenant House Alaska multi-purpose room. She’ll look back and remember seeing the presents that were requested getting wrapped.
“I know teenagers, and I know that they’re going to be excited when they get this,” said Hernandez. “I could just imagine a kid opening [it] up and smiling because it was something that they wanted.”
Thank you, volunteers!
We offer our holly-jolliest of thanks to Kandi Hernandez and all of our volunteers who have contributed their time and talents to Covenant House Alaska this yuletide season. Because of you and your elf-like work ethic, it feels like the North Pole has been moved just a little farther south this year.
If you are interested in joining Covenant House Alaska’s Christmas Committee next year or finding another way to volunteer, visit the volunteer page of our website for more information.