In October 2011, the Arc started its Volunteer Involvement Program (VIP.). The Participants on West Avenue who are in this program, originally led by Staff Members, Shawntye P., Eddie P., and Staci D. and now led by Raechelle B. and Benny D. go around the Arc assisting the staff members with different activities…such as escorting our fellow Participants to the Arc’s computer lab, the playground or to their classes when they arrive in the morning and when they go home in the afternoon. When it’s my turn to help escort Participants, I use my communicator to tell other the staff members when it’s time for a certain Participant to go home. The VIPs water plants that are around the Arc and make note pads for the Arc Staff Members. During the past year, the VIPs put together bubble blowing projects that will be given to children at the San Antonio Children’s museum.
We also roll up newspapers that are used by the San Antonio Humane Society and every three months, the V.I.P.S. assemble the newsletters for the Down Syndrome Association.
In January 2012, we decided to help the non-profit organization named The Dinner Garden (www.dinnergarden.org) started by Holly Hirshberg in 2008. The Dinner Garden provides seeds, gardening supplies, and gardening advice free of charge to all people in the United States of America. The intent is to assist those in need in establishing food security for their families. The long term goal is that people will plant home, neighborhood, and container gardens and use the vegetables they grow for food and income. The V.I.P.s offered to pack up seeds for The Dinner Garden.
In June 2012, the VIPs decided to donate to the SAMMinistries. (www.samm.org or (210) 979-6188) The SAMMinistries is an interfaith ministry whose mission is to help the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless attain self-sufficiency by offering, with dignity and compassion, shelter, housing, and services. We chose to take money from our healthy food snack bar sales that we host every Friday afternoon. The SAMMinistries told us that they were in need of bathing suits for young girls.
In August 2012, we helped out the AACOG (Alamo Area Council of Governments) by donating over $100 in school supplies to help children with disabilities go to school with the right supplies. The VIPs also repackage cat and dog food and gives it to the Meals on Wheels of San Antonio who support our homebound seniors and their pets.
Most recently, in September 2012, we decided to donate to our soldiers in the Armed Forces that are stationed overseas. The Operation Interdependence program, which is run by the National Charity League, is a civilian-to-military delivery system that serves as a program for Americans to demonstrate their support for our deployed military. For the next three months, the Arc will be collecting supplies that will be sent to the soldiers. If you have any questions about donating supplies to our soldiers, please feel free to contact Ms. Annette Centeno at (210) 490-4300, extension 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please bring your donations for our soldiers to the Arc’s V.I.P. classroom at 13430 West Avenue, SATX 78216.
A year later, the VIPs from the Arc of San Antonio on West Avenue and the Arc of San Antonio / Pam Stephens’ Center on Wurzbach Road came together to celebrate the one year anniversary of the creation of a volunteer program that has logged over 22,000 volunteer hours combined. We enjoyed a lasagna and salad luncheon served by the Arc’s staff members in the gym. The volunteer coordinator of the Meals on Wheels of San Antonio, Ms. Lauren Lewis came to thank us for our contributions. Mr. Steve Enders, the Arc’s C.E.O. awarded all of us with certificates of achievement.
We are so more very proud of our accomplishments. I truly love being in the VIP Program. I get to donate things to people in need and help others. I always try to find ways to help people, because I believe that when you help people, the universe will reward you by letting good things happen to you and for you.
The VIP Program allows me to do that, and I’m really proud to be a part of it.