It’s National Volunteer Week and each year, we take time to recognize the amazing volunteers who support the youth, programs and services at Covenant House Alaska. We have roughly 50 volunteers who consistently dedicate time each week throughout the year. Normally, we use this week to gather with volunteers, shower them with kind words and small tokens of appreciation, and thank them in various ways. But, with the recent changes due to COVID-19, we began to hunker down. About six weeks ago, we closed our doors to all volunteers and transitioned many of our staff to work from home situations where possible. Volunteering has looked quite a bit different as we creatively engage current volunteers virtually for the time being. We continue to accept applications for on-site volunteering once things return to ‘normal’ and it is deemed safe to do so.
Current volunteers have stepped up in a variety of ways so that they can continue to connect with the youth they see every week at each of our sites. Each month,we host a mentor activity night, where Rights of Passage mentors gather with youth for a fun, relationship-building activity, such as standup comedy nights, cooking together, snow tubing trips, and more. Now that gathering in person is not an option, mentors have gotten together with youth by Zoom. This past mentor activity night was a virtual one, where youth and mentors played Pictionary together! Other volunteers like the Crisis Response Canines have been sending over photos of the dogs that the youth have grown quite attached to. They even send sweet messages along with the photos for the youth to read. Many of our volunteers have also supported youth and staff through notes of encouragement, our Amazon Wish List, or meals.
One thing that is required to safely coordinate volunteers is staff. Because we have been reduced in our on-site staff numbers, it’s been difficult to figure out different ways to support volunteer efforts, but the CHA staff have created some new ideas: Passage House, our transitional living home for pregnant and parenting young women, requested new curtains for all of their bedrooms. Education & Employment asked for virtual webinars or videos about life skills, which has actually picked up traction from interested volunteers even outside of Alaska. “Being forced to think about virtual offerings has been difficult, but it will prepare us to utilize these tools more in the future to improve our overall volunteer program,” Volunteer Coordinator, Holly Payne comments.
If you are interested in volunteering, check out the updated “Give Time” portion of our website. Although we aren’t processing new volunteers right now, we are still happy to receive applications and speak about ways to contribute virtually. If you have any ideas that you’d like to contribute about how you would like to be engaged as a volunteer, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.