Volunteer Spotlight: Kelley Nixon Creates Safe Spaces

Kerry Reifel Events

For the past year, Kelley Nixon has been a dedicated volunteer at Covenant House Alaska, bringing her passion for arts and crafts to the youth we serve. Weekly, Nixon opens the art room, creating a space where our residents can express themselves creatively and find moments of joy amid their challenges.

Nixon’s journey to volunteerism was born from a combination of opportunity and personal history. “I was at a stage in my life where I had a little bit of free time and the financial ability to volunteer regularly,” she explains. But her motivation runs deeper than mere convenience.

Nixon understands the importance of mentorship during life’s toughest moments. “In my 20s, I was a bit lost coming out of a difficult home,” she reflects. “But I was very lucky to have a mentor who taught me coping skills, opened my mind to other ways of living, and helped me gain the confidence I needed to thrive.” 

This experience shapes Nixon’s approach to her volunteer work. From seasonal crafts like cork pumpkins and Halloween banners to more practical projects like sewing drawstring bags, Nixon provides a space where self-expression flourishes.

“I love making connections,” Nixon says with a smile in her voice. “It’s about providing support in whatever form that takes, not just to the youth but to the staff as well.  They have a hard job and if I can make it easier for them, even just a bit, that’s good.” Her commitment goes beyond art projects; it’s about building trust with the youth through consistent, small interactions.

Nixon’s impact is evident in the stories she shares. She recalls a resident who, despite struggling with mental health issues, found solace in the Art Room. “They came in and sat there, and I could tell that just by being there, that resident had a safe space,” she says, her voice filled with gratitude.

For Nixon, volunteering at Covenant House is a way to honor the mentor who bettered her life. “If I can help people develop useful tools and support their growth as young adults like my mentor did for me, that would be great,” she says. Her approach embodies the lessons she learned: find humor in life’s challenges — or even in spite of them, learn to really listen, and remember that hardships are temporary.

The impact of Covenant House Alaska extends far beyond its walls. Nixon recounts a chance encounter at Target, where a cashier shared how the organization had helped her sister. “I realized just how important CHA’s programs are to not just clients but also to their loved ones,” Nixon marvels.

To those considering volunteering, Nixon’s message is clear: “Do it. Be absolutely open-minded. Just show up.” She envisions a future where the volunteer-to-resident ratio at Covenant House is even greater, providing more consistent support for youth who have experienced trauma.

As our conversation winds down, Nixon’s passion for her work shines through. “We’re reminding residents that they matter, that we want them to succeed, and that we’re rooting for them,” she says. In the Art Room at Covenant House Alaska, Kelley Nixon isn’t just teaching crafts – she’s crafting hope, one project at a time.