Volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight: Carly Fleege

Carly Fleege: Communications Committee Member

30499_915279325831_10024212_52424277_1651874_nHow long have you been volunteering with WTAP?I’ve been volunteering with WTAP since 2008.

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
I’ve met selfless, incredible, and dedicated volunteers; and I’ve met refugees who have endured the unimaginable.  Those connections, however brief, are invaluable and immeasurable.
Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
My heart has attached itself to WTAP’s mission of creating community connections and building bridges of neighborly understanding.  I think we can all relate to the desire to belong, feel connected to others, and have a place to call home.  As humans, we all have an instinctive desire to ensure our children and loved ones have access to life’s basic necessities and the freedom to pursue our greatest hopes and dreams.  Some of us may take for granted the comparative safety, security, and freedom we enjoy in the United States, but those things have been violently ripped away from those who bear the refugee status.  Refugees belong nowhere and to no one.  But WTAP provides an opportunity to welcome the world’s homeless in a loving, profound way.  We get to say, “You’re home, you’re loved, you belong, and now you can live a life of endless possibilities.  Don’t lose hope, your journey may not be over but you’ve come so far.  You’ve endured what we cannot begin to imagine but despite those obstacles, your strength, courage, and perseverance has gotten you here and will see you the rest of the way. Let us, your community and neighbors, help build a foundation for you to begin the next part of your journey.”
Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.
There isn’t a singular, defining experience that I’ve had with WTAP that made me realize I was making a difference.  Perhaps that’s because WTAP, as a whole, makes the difference.  As the old adage says, “it takes a village.”
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?  
If I’m not volunteering, I’m either working or spending time with my husband and two adorable rescue pups (adopt, don’t shop!).
What secret powers or talents do you have?
My secret power is probably neither a secret nor a power but a defining characteristic that fuels and drives me.  Those characteristics are empathy and love.

The Flaming Vacuum!

The Flaming Vacuum is a funny story we want to share from one of Susie’s Goodwill Adventures:

I go to Goodwill every Thursday for Dollar Day (they know me well). My motivation is to find useful items I then donate to the Welcome to America Project. One item that is asked for by most families is a vacuum cleaner and I have been very lucky to find many $1 vacuums. Rule of thumb:  you must always plug them in! Although they may not “suck” very well, if the motor is running smoothly, I can take it apart and fix the “no suck” issue. Lo and behold, one Thursday I found a very nice looking Hoover. I snagged it and took my place in line at the test desk. A very nice lady behind me was waiting to test a lamp. I, of course was bragging about how I can fix these ol’ vacuums etc., and all about my WTAP cause. The lamp lady was lapping it all up. I was the “Mother Teresa” of the Goodwill! I plugged that vacuum in and within a millasecond it made a very odd screeching sound and burst into flames! The lady behind me shrieked “FIRE!” and the Goodwill guys came running. I just pulled the whole electrical strip out of the wall, keeping my hero status in tack. Well, the guys would not let me take the Hoover, insisting that it was unfixable (yes I asked). Sorry WTAP. Everyone walking in to Goodwill asked “what is that smell? Is something on fire?” I loved the way the staff explained that I was getting a vacuum for WTAP and it caught fire. Great publicity!

No vacuum this week, but I did find a girl’s bike, 3 table cloths, 3 sets of sheets, a blanket, bread maker, 3 new-with-tags book bags, and some towels, all for $20!! All of these essential items will be delivered by our wonderful volunteers to the households of newly resettled refugees. It’s a small gesture, but we hope it will make our new neighbors feel welcomed into our communities as they begin the next chapter of the their lives in Phoenix.

Susie Wilkin is a WTAP super-volunteer, Board Member, and dedicated Packer for our Saturday deliveries. Using her own funds, Susie also frequents her local Goodwill on Dollar Days to supplement the donations we receive. She’s always on the hunt for high need items such as vacuums, rice cookers, bikes, and towels.

Volunteer Spotlight: Julia Thorn

Julia Thorn: Volunteer, Board Member

How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?me
I have been volunteering with WTAP since 2008.  I was introduced to WTAP when I was Director of Marketing Communications at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa.  We were renovating a wing of the resort and were looking for a local organization to donate the used furniture and décor. Our only stipulation was they had to go to families in our local community and the organization had to be able to pick up the items and store them. I called Carolyn Manning and the rest is history.

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
I have met so many wonderful refugee families.  I feel so fortunate to have met them.  A few that come to mind are two Burundian refugees,  Venant and Alexis.  They have the sweetest families and such sweet spirits.  Venant and I represented WTAP last year when a dignitary came to town.  Others that I have been moved by were a brother and 2 sisters from Iran.  He had been working with our government and they had to flee.  But before they did, one of his sisters who worked as a flight attendant was in an area that was bombed and got shrapnel in her face.  She was going to have surgery to repair her wounds. The brother volunteered as an interpreter for us on home visits.

Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
Mostly because I am awed by the refugees.  They are resilient individuals who have survived so much and taught me about the strength of the human spirit.  This charity is such a worthwhile organization and  you can see the positive impact immediately.  As a Christian I am called to help those less fortunate. I don’t have to go across the world on mission trips – I am doing good work right here in my own backyard.

Describe an experience you had while volunteering that you realize you were making a difference.
I was doing home visits and met a single lady with a son from Iraq.  She was handicapped and had been excommunicated from her family because her husband left her.  Even though we didn’t speak on another’s language I understood she needed a tea pot, blanket and some clothes.  I immediately drove home and got my tea pot and a blanket, stop at store and bought her a few items and drove back to her house.  She was so grateful.  It was just a few things that changed her world and mine.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I have done most of the volunteer opportunities at one time or another.  From home visits, to deliveries, donation drives to speaking engagements.  I have chaired the Adopt a Family 3 years and coordinated several Cultural dinners over the years – Burundi, Iraq and Cuban.

Welcomes, Deliveries, and New Friendships!

Anytime I have the opportunity, I tell people about the Welcome to America project and what a unique, Dinner2family-friendly volunteer opportunity they offer through their “deliveries.” I have been spending time with refugees in Arizona for more than 10 years–as a volunteer, a sponsor, a teacher and a friend–and these have been some of the richest experiences of my life. I have been privileged to visit and work on six continents but have never learned or grown as much as I have through relationships with foreign-born people in my own city! What a treasure.

A few weeks ago, some friends and I went on a Saturday-morning delivery with WTAP. I had only done this once before and was excited to go again, though I didn’t look forward to saying “goodbye” after delivering the items. One thing I have learned over and over in the past 10 years is that even beyond the physical furnishings and comforts, what newly arrived refugees really need and crave are trusted friends who will walk with them through those difficult, often lonely first several months.

After we put the final touches on the last apartment that Saturday–trying to hang wall art perfectly, unwrapping a new lamp shade, carefully placing a clothes dresser in the parents’ bedroom–we chatted with the Iraqi family and smiled, shook hands, said goodbye and began to walk out to our cars. In each of these deliveries, to me, there is always a sense that both the refugee families and the delivery volunteers would like to know more about each other, but the scene is just a little rushed or the awkwardness of communicating in two different languages becomes too much.

Wasan (the mother) and her two boys followed us out and stood there watching as we said goodbye to each other, piled back into our cars and drove away. I thought about how isolating it is to be in their shoes: newcomers in a strange land, kept inside their small apartment by the brutal summer heat, interested but unable to explore their new home without a trusted friend to show them how.

I had to find some friends for this family. Of course, the family would decide whether or not to keep these friends, but at least they could have some options and could receive more welcomes from more of their new neighbors. To get the family’s phone number, I contacted WTAP who gave me the name of the family’s resettlement agency. Since I already had a good relationship with the staff at the agency, they gave me the phone number, and we were off and running.

Martha and Mark are two very dear friends of mine who love to serve others and show hospitality. Martha sprung into action and invited the family over for dinner. The evening was filled with a lot of laughter, hugs, hand motions when we couldn’t understand each other, and full, satisfied bellies thanks to Martha’s good cooking. We lingered over the dinner table and took our time getting to know each other. Two weeks later, we met again at Martha and Mark’s home, this time feasting on fragrant, fresh Iraqi food prepared by Wasan and Naseer, her husband.

I will continue to encourage people of all ages to volunteer with WTAP and extend a warm welcome to our new neighbors from all over the world. I also encourage volunteers to go a step further and reach out to the people you meet during the delivery–open your home and invite someone new over for a meal! It takes very little effort but can go a long way in helping people make the difficult transition to life in America.

Volunteer Spotlight: Francesca Thomas

Francesca1
Francesca Thomas: Volunteer, Board Member
How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?
9 years
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
I have met a couple who escaped from Cuba va Venezuela and through the jungles of South America; I met a young man from Iran who was imprisoned for his political views; I met a doctor from Iraq who used his only allowed bag to transport his medical school books; I met a family from Eritrea who served us coffee and popcorn as a way to thank us for assisting them; and I have met lots of lots of my Arizona neighbors who share their hearts, their time and their treasures to build community with our new refugee neighbors.
Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
I started volunteering with the organization because it was one of only a few places where I could take all my children, even when they were younger. Every delivery felt, for us, like a little trip around the world, meeting people, hearing of their experiences, sharing in their culture. It made our world both bigger and simultaneously more connected. I have continued to volunteer and financially support the organization because I have sene the difference it makes in the lives of families who have endured unimaginable hardship, and because I know that the experiences I have through my interaction with these international neighbors makes me a better, more understanding person.
 
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I am the mom of 3 boys. I love to read, knit and travel, especially to my family in Italy and Switzerland.
 
What secret powers or talents do you have?
If I told you, they wouldn’t be secret anymore! A skill I have that isn’t quite so secret is my ability to speak Italian, French, and a little German and Spanish.

Staff Spotlight: Jack Bigus

Jack Bigus:  DriverFullSizeRender
How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?
I have been working for WTAP since August of 2008, I volunteered. from 2005-2007
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
I have met hundreds of people and the volunteers have always been the best.
Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
I liked the intimate experience when I volunteer.   I took the job when Carolyn called and asked me if I was interested.
Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.
The smiling and happy faces at a delivery. as a job…it is the best…I feel I make a difference every Thursday afternoon when I choose and pack the furniture for that weekend’s delivery.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I go to the gym, yoga, and I bowl.
What secret powers or talents do you have?
Can’t trick me…if i told you they would no longer be secret!!!!

Volunteer Spotlight: Ottilie Yee

IMG_1043-3Ottilie Yee: Graphic Designer, Photographer
How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?

I have been volunteering with WTAP since July 2014.

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?

I’ve met tons of awesome people through WTAP! From the volunteers to the refugees, it’s eye-opening to meet people from all walks of life. It’s crazy to think that we may have never crossed paths if it were not for WTAP. Several volunteers are now some of my closest friends and I have WTAP to thank for that.

Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?

I originally volunteered with WTAP to submit a project for the Fulbright Program and was referred to the organization by Kristin Romaine, a former board member. My post-grad life went in a different direction from the Fulbright Program, but I continued on with WTAP regardless of the circumstances because I fell in love with its mission and values and really enjoyed the time spent on deliveries. Now, I am a member of the Communications Committee and the photographer on deliveries.

Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.  
My favorite part about deliveries is seeing refugees’ reactions to different items we bring in. Fortunately, I’ve been a part of these moments on several occasions. One of my favorite experiences is when a woman received an ironing board and she wasn’t talking to anyone in particular, but she stated, “I have home now.” I’ll never forget that huge smile! It’s hard forming the right words to describe some of the emotions evoked when a refugee receives something that we often take for granted, such as an ironing board or a family photo; you can tell by their faces that this simple gesture means the world to them, and when their happiness radiates from them, that’s how I know I’m making a difference.
 
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
When I’m not volunteering, I work as a social media guru/web designer/graphic designer for online craft and party supply store, Two Berry Creative. I also love baking, reading and planning my next travel adventure.
 
What secret powers or talents do you have?
I’m obsessed with typography so sometimes I will randomly point out different fonts on signs, menus, etc. I’m also really good at crafting and not creating Pinterest fails!

Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Todd-Hosier

Mary Todd-Hosier:  Salesforce Administrator
MaryHow long have you been volunteering with WTAP?
I have been volunteering with WTAP since my children were both in grade school and they are now 19 and 21, so it must be about 8 or 9 years?  My husband would go on deliveries with the kids and they loved volunteering and meeting the families they were helping.  I wanted to help but wasn’t crazy about moving furniture so when I asked if there was something else I could help WTAP with, Carolyn Manning mentioned that she needed an assistant to help organize the files and information she had accumulated.

The WTAP office was still in her home at that time and I would go over a couple of days a week and file and organize. Once the office moved out of her home, I was asked to enter the in-kind donations into a database (Salesforce) which I have done now for many years.

Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.

My family has gone on a couple more deliveries as our children got older. My favorite part was when everything was set up, we would sit in the living area with the family and hear their stories, just like we were friends on a social visit! WTAP serves the community with dignity and I feel blessed to be a part of it, even a “behind-the-scenes” part of it.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?

When I’m not volunteering, I am settling into life in my new home in California; my husband’s job has brought us there. I am so happy to be able to continue with my in-kind data entry from across the miles!

What secret powers or talents do you have?

Secret powers or talents? Hmmmmm, that’s a hard one…I love to sew and quilt and ride my beach cruiser, I guess those aren’t very secret!

Volunteer Spotlight: Kim McQueen

IMG_3109Kim McQueen:  National Charity League Liaison and Delivery Volunteer

How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?
I started volunteering with WTAP about 8 years ago with my boys through an organization called Boys Team Charity.  Now I volunteer with my daughters with National Charity League (NCL) and I also work as a liaison between NCL and WTAP to help schedule volunteers for events.

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?

The volunteers we have worked with have been positive, hard working and people who want to make a difference for these families that are new to the US. All the families my family and I have met have been wonderful people.  They are so kind and grateful to be in the United States, even with the little amount they have.  They have always been so thankful for everything we have brought to them.

Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?

It’s such a worthwhile cause, that really makes you stop and realize how lucky we are to live in this country.  We tend to take our safety and freedom for granted and working with the refugee families really puts it all in perspective.

Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.

My daughters and I were making deliveries on a Saturday.  We met a family comprised of a mother, grandmother and a few children, with one of the daughters being severely handicapped.  This mother had experienced so much adversity, but was so grateful to be in a safe place with her family.  She hugged us all and gave many thanks, although I felt we should be thanking her, as she reminded us of a valuable lesson.  It was a great example that happiness comes from within and is not something you can buy.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?

I work part-time for Southwest Human Development, Arizona’s largest nonprofit dedicated to early childhood development. I work in their development department raising money for different events to benefit our many programs.  I also love to spend time with my family, exercise and read.

What secret powers or talents do you have?
The ability to turn a negative situation into a positive one.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Chris Lay

Chris Lay: Delivery Driver and Salesforce GuruChrisLay

How long have you been volunteering with WTAP? 

My wife and I have been volunteering since we moved to Phoenix, so about September or October of last year.

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP? 

We have met so many people. The volunteers and refugees we meet are all great. What stands out to me the most are the refugees who were so well educated and successful in their home countries, but coming here that means nothing for them. You know they want to succeed and give back like they were able to do before. They just need a welcoming hand to encourage and assist them while they get their footing in this new country.

Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?

This is a great organization meeting a real need. So often we do work, sit in strategy meetings, or rant on Facebook about the needs of the world. This is a chance to actually make a difference for people, not just talk about it.

Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.

Every weekend it’s obvious we are making a difference. We come in and most of the apartments are completely empty before we arrive. When we leave it looks like a home, a modest home, but still a home. Every time we leave a home and the family is crying, or have huge grins across their faces, it’s easy to see the difference this simple gesture is making.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?

I work with a social media training company and also work with another local non-profit full time.

What secret powers or talents do you have?

I speak over a dozen languages. (of course, that’s only about 1 word in each).