The second Saturday of each month, you will find this small band of volunteers singing happy birthday and celebrating with Covenant House Alaska youth and staff. This group has been graciously giving back to the community by giving time and in-kind donations to CHA youth. Their long-time volunteerism is so inspiring.
We want to share their story:
This group of seven families has a long history of serving together. It all started several years ago when they attended the same church and formed a home group where their families would gather every other week for prayer, fellowship, and Bible study. They also would help care for each other’s needs and care for the community through a service project that they all worked on together. One of their first service projects was coming to clean here at CHA. It was a family affair. As the adults cleaned in the main building, the children of the group helped sort clothes and other donations in another building to honor CHA’s policy regarding volunteers under the age of 18. The group took a hiatus for a few years, but eventually began meeting again. After re-organizing, the group decided to begin serving together again at CHA by helping youth celebrate birthdays. They have been here ever since.
Once a month for the past three years they have volunteered at the Youth Engagement Center at 755 A Street. Leading up to the second Saturday of each month, the group organizes and coordinates a plan around a birthday meal and celebration. Each person in the group signs up for a component of the dinner. They have 6 different menus that they cycle through.
Having a large group to get together to do something like this is great because we get to spend time with each other, work on something meaningful together, and share the cost and time commitment of everything.
Each month, they purchase food for a dinner, prepare the meal, and serve the meal at dinner time. They also provide a big birthday cake and, with help of our program staff, acknowledge all of the youth who have birthdays happening that month. Additionally, they bring the youth birthday presents and hand those out while everyone enjoys cake. The gifts are either goodie bags full of snacks & essentials or gift cards to places like Walmart and Starbucks. The group has continued this tradition with a team effort and great consistency.
Being part of a community [my church group] that does something together to support and give back to another community is my favorite aspect about what we do at Covenant House. I really enjoy being part of a collective group of individuals who are all looking to accomplish the same goal.
The CHA youth look forward to the second Saturday of the month because of what the volunteer group offers; it really brightens their day. CHA program staff and kitchen staff are very thankful to have the help in supporting the youth, and everyone at CHA is motivated to see a group in the community care so much. One program staff who is here for every birthday celebration comments, “birthdays are days that can be very tough on teens in general, so you can only imagine how tough they can be on the teens who live here and are going through trauma and the hardest times of their lives. It’s really fantastic to have support in supporting them; the extra display of love and care from a big group in the community who is volunteering their time and effort really means everything to the youth.”
Jim Miller, one of the group members, states,
“we don’t get to know the youth very well, but it still feels extremely good to know that our time here makes a difference—that it lifts their spirits. To see them happy and enjoying what we’re doing is a blessing to us. Everyone feels blessed when they leave. Seeing the youth cheer other kids on who are receiving presents and turning a year older is just really so cool.”