In its four years of existence Hands4Hope — Youth Making a Difference has seen its youth participation explode.
Founder/Executive Director Jennifer Bassett started with an idea and 15 youth volunteers. Today she oversees 640 youth volunteers and dozens of community projects every year. In 2011 the kids logged more than 5,000 volunteer hours.
“(The organization’s growth) is kind of surreal,” said Bassett of El Dorado Hills. “It honestly overwhelms me if I think about it too much.”
As one can imagine, Bassett could use some help.
Specifically, she needs adult volunteers who are willing to commit a few hours a month to help plan events, supervise youth volunteers, coordinate activities at local schools (H4H has partnerships with nine schools), guide the youth volunteers in school clubs, write grants or serve as H4H historian.
“We would like to increase our active adult volunteers by 25,” Bassett said, adding that volunteers do not have to be parents. All volunteers must be fingerprinted.
Tracy Lesher, H4H communications coordinator, is one such childless volunteer who said she gets so much out of her work with the organization.
Lesher said she’s watched the young volunteers learn about a side of their community they might not have known before. Working with the homeless and those who don’t have what these children take for granted really gives them a strong sense of gratitude, she explained, adding, “Adults also get that experience.”
Adult volunteer Christine Kleckman said she loves watching the kids grow through volunteerism.
“As Hands4Hope has grown in service, I see more and more youth joining the cause,(and working hard) and it is joyful to see the pride in their eyes when they realize that they have helped provide something good for someone else, and when they know they have gained ‘hands on’ knowledge of someone else’s life that may be less fortunate then theirs,” she said. “This is why I continue to support Hands4Hope youth.”
“Volunteering is a two-way street; this organization provides our family with meaningful life experiences which not only help improve the lives of others but transforms ours along the way,” said adult volunteer Inga Buckendorf. “Hands4Hope bridges the gap between communities. The benefits are truly immeasurable.”
Those interested in volunteering can register online at hands4hopeyouth.org.
“We can work with any adult’s schedule and the hours they want to work,” Lesher said.
Since 2008 Hands4Hope has collected more than $40,000 and 22,000 pounds of food for local food banks and the hungry in our community, made and served more than 11,500 meals to the homeless, and collected and distributed more than 25,000 articles of clothing, blankets and toiletries to those in need.
The El Dorado Hills-based organization works with numerous non-profits and, Bassett said, the list of those requesting H4H’s help grows every day.
“We know we have the youth volunteers (to expand),” she said.
They just need a few more adults to step up.
For more information visit H4H’s website or call Bassett at (916) 919-5695 or Lesher at (916) 479-0592.
Hands4Hope’s Rolling Hills Middle School Club will be in front of Nugget Market in El Dorado Hills and Lowe’s in Folsom from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, and Sunday, Feb. 19, selling homemade dog biscuits. Proceeds will help pets of the homeless.
The Oak Ridge High School H4H group will be out in front of Raley’s in El Dorado Hills from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19, collecting toiletries that will be donated to The Center for Violence-free Relationships.
On Friday, March 2, the H4H Youth Board will host a spaghetti feed fundraiser from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Lakehills Covenant Church, 7000 Rossmore Lane in El Dorado Hills. Proceeds will benefit WIND Youth Services and the youth board’s Team Inspire. Tickets are $12 (free for children 6 and younger) and can be purchased at hands4hopeyouth.org or at the door.