Building Community While Building Cache

We all got experienced at adapting in 2020. Instead of our annual event, the way Women’s Service Day altered our plan was to create Women’s Service Season—four ways, offered each month from August through October—to help women and children in our community during a pandemic:

  1. Volunteering in-person (safely) or from home
  2. Giving financial support
  3. Giving or collecting items nonprofits need 
  4. Joining (and spreading the word about) events nonprofits themselves are planning 

We also invited volunteers to share their stories on social media to be eligible for our Volunteer Appreciation Awards. Now it’s time to highlight the creativity and ambition of our award winners

Joanie, who is an avid supporter of Community Action House, orchestrated a garage “sale” in her neighborhood to benefit this important agency. What was unique about her approach? Nothing actually had a price tag.

“Buyers” were encouraged to take whatever they needed or wanted. In return, they were asked to “pay” with a donation of food or paper products needed for Family Food Boxes, an initiative promoted by Community Action House that Joanie learned about during Women’s Service Season. Alternatively, “buyers” could “pay” by making a financial donation. 

It was all done through a self-serve honor system. Garage sale items were left at the base of her driveway for a week, replenished each day. Joanie promoted the event with signage, by emailing neighbors, and through social media.

Neighbors happily participated. They contributed items throughout the week and also “shopped”—pleased to make a positive difference in the community. It was also a great way for neighbors to meet—sometimes for the first time. “Beyond getting my basement cleaned out,” said Joanie, “it was so heartwarming to see the participation and response (verbal and through donations) of our neighbors.”

Joanie and a friend used the donated funds to create nine Family Food Boxes (valued at approximately $75/box) and delivered them, along with a $100 check to Community Action House.

The need is evident. In 2020 alone, Community Action House:

  • Provided over 500,000 meals through their Food Pantry
  • Helped find 19 homes for 26 formerly-homeless neighbors
  • Assisted over 7,000 people across all their services
  • Served 38,000+ hot meals (to go) from their Community Kitchen
  • Provided assistance to more than 30 people concerned about losing their home through foreclosure

In addition to helping to meet a very dire need—especially during a pandemic—Joanie helped to spark a creative way to keep paying it forward. She is working with others in her network and neighborhood to plan future garage “sales” and on a larger scale.

“I really believe that many people are struggling to know what they can do to make a positive difference during these challenging times,” said Joanie. “It’s relatively easy to do something as an individual, for instance, by writing a check. It brings so much more joy, in my view, to take a few extra steps to invite others to join in—it just grows the joy and builds community and magnifies the impact.”

Congratulations, Joanie, for being a recipient of the Women’s Service Season Volunteer Award!

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