Says Joe Maddon: “The volunteers are the unsung heroes. Without them, none of our efforts occur.” Every month, the Respect 90 Foundation will salute a distinguished volunteer from the communities of Tampa, FL, Chicago, IL, Mesa, AZ, Southern California, or Joe’s Hometown of Hazleton, PA. Respect 90 will present a $1,000 grant to that volunteer’s charity. Should you have someone who is deserving, please let us know.
Sharie Campbell, Marilyn Balph & Virginia Hielen | Helen’s Hope Chest (Mesa, AZ)
When I asked Katie Pompay, executive director of Helen’s Hope Chest, if she had a candidate for our monthly Respect 90 Foundation Volunteer Spotlight she said no, she didn’t have a single candidate. She had three.
“It would be difficult,” Katie explained apologetically, “to separate Sharie Campbell, Marilyn Balph and Virginia Hielen.
It begins with JaKelle’s Christmas Box, a program that the folks at Helen’s Hope Chest began in 2013 as a small “Gift-Away” for children in foster care. Over the years, it has grown into a week-long event where foster and kinship parents can come and do their holiday “shopping.” It is also safe to say it wouldn’t happen without Sharie, Marilyn and Virginia.
“They have taken upon themselves to make sure everything is ready to go each year,” says Katie. “They are an amazing team. They’re wonderful people. Very thoughtful, very caring. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
The trio works on JaKelle’s Christmas Box from August to March, then switch gears to Helen’s Hope Chest’s Back-to-School program. “We work well together,” admits Sharie, who began at Helen’s Hope Chest in February 2018 after seeing a Facebook post that said the nonprofit needed boys’ jeans. “So, I went shopping and dropped off a donation,” she recalls. “They gave me a tour and I was impressed.”
Helen’s Hope Chest is indeed impressive. The program was started in 2009 to provide basic needs to Arizona’s foster children and the families who care for them. Helen’s has helped thousands of youth by providing quality clothing, shoes, hygiene items, toys, books, and school supplies at no cost. Their unique design provides children and youth with a positive experience of shopping in a consignment-like environment. The atmosphere encourages foster youth to make their own clothing selections.
After her tour, Sharie joined Virginia who had been volunteering since 2010 and Marilyn who began in 2012.
“When they’re here, they work non-stop,” says Katie. “At the end of the day we have to tell them it is time to go. They don’t watch the clocks. We tell them, ‘You can stay overnight but you just can’t set off the alarms. They just love being here.”
In addition to the months-long set-up which includes securing enough gifts to provide the families a variety of choices, the ladies help the foster families shop. “They (foster families) are happy to have someone who will listen,” Katie says. “Our volunteers do so much for the families and the kids when they come in.”
They all have their specialties. Virginia always dresses up as Mrs. Claus for the shopping sprees. Sharie in particular looks out for the teenagers scouring for gifts for the often-overlooked foster teens. Marilyn is the recycler caring not only about the kids, but she makes sure Helen’s is thoughtful about the environment and sustainability.
“They run this place,” Katie says with a smile. “I sit here and answer the phones, but the volunteers are the ones who run this place and make sure everything is just perfect for the kids. Everything is laid out on tables and then the foster families come in and actually pick out all of the items with the kids so that they are just not getting something the kids might like.”
Before COVID-19, Helen’ Hope Chest was serving approximately, 3,000 foster children from Maricopa County and Arizona. The pandemic has reduced the number to slightly more than half.
The numbers make no difference to these selfless ladies. “I feel it is important to give back to the community if you have the time,” says Sharie who moved out west from Iowa in 1983. “It gives me a sense of purpose and is rewarding knowing that the kids benefit from what we do. These kids in foster care have had a rough go of it, so if I can enhance their life in some small way that makes me feel good. “
Rick Vaughn | Executive Director, Respect 90 Foundation