In the midst of a hectic day, people yearn for a couple more hours to get it all done. Some might agree that in the fall, an extra month could be slipped into the calendar to make it a 13-month year, just to be able to pack in a few more events and football games.
Things get busy, but that makes it even more impressive these days when you hear of people in the community who give of their own time-crunched life to help charitable causes. How do they do it?
The Ladies of Hope have found a way to squeeze a few hours out of their weeks to support Community Storehouse of Keller. Community Storehouse focuses on assisting low income families — and especially children — with the resources they need to stay in school. Their mission strives to “close a gap between opportunity and achievement” for children in this area.
Some volunteers work directly with the children and some help behind the scenes.
“Every Monday my husband and I come to hang clothing or process the bulk items that haven’t sold,” says volunteer Janette Gerig. As former educators who worked with children, the couple was familiar with the work of the Community Storehouse. “I don’t have the direct contact with the children like I used to,” Gerig says, “but I still feel like I am helping.”
Gerig says her husband David is the “transporter.”
“Whenever moving stuff is involved, he’s there,” she laughs.
The efforts are empowering.
“Sometimes you feel powerless when you see things out there in the news and in the community but it kind of warms my heart to know that I’m actually doing something to make positive change,” she says.
Other givers like Julie Sizemore of Keller also have something deep within that powerfully motivates them to help others.
“Seventeen years ago when my husband and I moved here, I saw an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about a food pantry and I wanted to get involved but the timing was hard for me. So, in 2008, I took a break from my work and I started volunteering here by answering phones, and then I worked in case management,” Sizemore says.
She later began leading the Ladies of Hope group. She organizes and coordinates things for social gatherings, service projects, fundraisers and reading programs that benefit Community Storehouse.
The group is currently working on its Thanksgiving food boxes and Sizemore is always recruiting help for the project du jour. “We get a lot of high school kids for the Thanksgiving boxes.”
Being a mother of two Keller youngsters, she’s got an inside track to recruit more of those.
The group’s Christmas House project comes barreling in by December. Toys are donated by the public and by organizations like Toys for Tots for dispersion. With this effort, about 1,500 families come through Community Storehouse to experience all of the love that surrounds the season of giving.
The Hope Dinner, a fundraising gala held in February at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center, is another way in which the Ladies of Hope generate support for Community Storehouse.
Tasks throughout the year can be simple or on a grand scale — from putting together hundreds of race T-shirt entrance packets for the annual Run in the Dark fundraiser, to making sandwiches and meals by the hundreds.
Julie laughs that a lot of her friends get sucked into her volunteering “vortex” but that’s because she is always inspiring others to help a philanthropy that is so special to her.
It sometimes takes a little recruitment, but everyone involved in the organization agrees that involvement is needed to keep the wheels turning.
“It’s so nice to have “ambassadors” who are knowledgeable about our mission and are always able to help at different times and shifts. We want them to keep coming back and to bring their friends,” says Megan Stiller, development director of Community Storehouse.
There’s comradery among the volunteers and it’s a chance to learn from one another while working on a common goal.
“I love age diversity. Younger women working with older women and everyone in between. We all come from different walks of life. It’s nice,” volunteer Sheryl Hodges says.
Even though not all of the volunteers ran in the Run in the Dark a few weeks back, they were working on all of the details behind the scenes that make it fun for others. Every runner’s number pinned to a T-Shirt, and each box that is packed up was done so by the hands of the Ladies of Hope and others who are working together for the good of the whole.
“They see that this is such an important piece of the puzzle,” Sizemore says.
Community Storehouse is in a new location on 12001 Katy Road in Keller. The staff and volunteers are ecstatic about this because the space is large enough to better accommodate the needs of children and families. There will be a new client services area to eliminate back up in the intake areas, larger waiting room areas, a resale outlet, the pantry services and activity rooms for families to visit. A large conference room will help the organization with their meetings and provide volunteers a place to gather to plan for upcoming events.
Volunteers like Jamie Rose especially enjoyed touring a final construction stage of the new building because she came in a few months back to demo the walls.
All of the volunteers are thrilled to see the new space because they can imagine what the space will provide to others and how welcoming it will feel to others.
Community Storehouse is not all about food pantries, snack packs, supplemental food and hygiene kits, although those elements are a large part of its assistance to children and families. Reading programs are a huge part of the service repertoire and those are near and dear to its director Barbara Board’s heart. Her son dealt with dyslexia as a boy and she realized how helping kids early on is vital to seeing them succeed in life.
She volunteered with the organization since the early 1980s but came on in 2000 as the first paid Community Storehouse staff member.
The organization is a Christian-based nonprofit relief agency that began in the early ‘80s to serve the children in Keller, Northwest and Carroll Independent School Districts. It advocates for and provides medical/dental care, eye care, literacy programs, school supplies, prescriptions, clothing, food, shelter, and counseling to kids in need. In 2016, more than 68,000 services helped over 4,700 children within the three school districts.
“And when we grow, it’s because the community need has grown so much,” Board says.
It’s easy to imagine kids getting lost in the shuffle, but the teachers and schools are working together with this organization to identify who needs extra support.
“A lot of our summer programs are run by teachers and they know who is in need of help,” Board says. “If a child is struggling in school, we focus heavily on their reading skills. Second, we focus on whatever is going on at home and look at what they are not getting and what they need.”
Board is surprised that 18 years have passed by so fast. She’s seen children grow and benefit during her tenure, but she’s also very real about the hard work that it takes to make it happen.
“There are hard days and challenges, but then you can visit with the kids and I can just get right back up on my horse again,” Board says.
A wide range vision for hope also keeps her going.
“I think about how many people are in prison and how it has been linked to reading issues. The majority of kids in prison struggled to read as children.”
Board says success can happen when someone takes a few minutes to do what is needed.
“Our programs are well rounded and they build the child’s ego. These are the kids that never raised their hands in the classrooms. They don’t want to be noticed. It’s all about self-esteem and self-confidence,” Board says.
She says the need to get kids through the formative years and through the early education years with the least amount of stress and challenge is vital to preventing problems in life later.
“Our numbers have tripled with the children we are helping. We have tons of stuff going on and not enough staff. We’ve been very blessed with the help we have. They’ve just been a Godsend, but we need more people to deal with the growth in the community,” Board said.
“All of the school districts bus in handicapped children to volunteer here,” she says.
These special kids assist with garment racks in the resale shop and enjoy being a part of something where everyone benefits. They also participate in a volunteer luncheon where they win awards for their generous, hard-working service.
Two-thousand backpack-sized snack packs go out to children who need them every Friday thanks to the volunteers and Community Storehouse. Sometimes there are hygiene products like soaps, toothbrushes and other items that go into care packages for kids.
The network of caring and vigilant teachers in the region is impressive.
“We have teachers and nurses who quietly see a situation and slip food or hygiene products into their backpacks and sometimes even clean underwear,” she explains.
“And we do dignity closets on campuses. Kids come to the classroom so filthy at times and we provide things that they need so that they can focus on education,” Board says. “These kids are hidden in ALL districts. These teachers are discreetly helping these kids so that they are not embarrassed.”
Clean underwear. Just hearing those two words can humble you to realize the lives impacted by just a little bit of love and understanding in a complex world.
The yearning for everyone to have a chance to succeed is what keeps Community Storehouse staff and volunteers rolling up their sleeves up for the day’s responsibilities.
“You know, we all live in a bubble and some people don’t realize who we service. We service three school districts. And you never know who is going to fall on hard times or who really needs the learning programs here,” Hodges says. “You never know who Community Storehouse touches. It could be the new kid in class and it can be the star of the football team. We are here for those who need our support.”
For information on volunteering with the Ladies of Hope or Community Storehouse, call 817-431-3340, visit www.communitystorehouse.org or visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CommunityStorehouse.
People can support Community Storehouse by shopping at the organization’s outlet centers:
309 N. Main (Hwy 377) St., Keller, 817-741-4167
12001 Katy Road, Keller, 817-741-3341
For all potential volunteers: Community Storehouse requires all volunteer candidates to have a background check done every two years. A volunteer orientation is also required and sometimes has to be repeated if there are lapses in time of volunteering. Please see the website for more details on how to be a volunteer and to learn about volunteer opportunities.