The Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way recently launched the Community Connections Volunteer Center. The main goal of this project is to connect people with meaningful volunteer opportunities in the community, allowing them to make a difference. Volunteering for some people is very rewarding, but many people with busy lives find it difficult to find the time to volunteer. A new initiative through the Community Connection Volunteer Center offers another way for people to make an impact, "Bridging the Gap."
In Fort Dodge-Webster County, there are hundreds of families living in houses or apartments that do not have the basic necessities of a home; such things as beds, dressers, tables, dishes, etc. We know there are many children sleeping on floors because their family cannot afford a bed. As these families try to live each day without the items they need, there are others in our community who have household items they no longer use stored in a basement, attic or garage. Why not Bridge this Gap?
Community Connections Volunteer Center is trying to build this bridge between families who want to help and families who need help. Bridging the Gap is a program that makes connecting people in need with available resources an easy and simple process. We accept donations of household items and gently used furniture that can make a house a home. These items are distributed to needy families in the area at no charge. Families receiving assistance through Bridging the Gap are referred to us by other social service agencies in the greater Fort Dodge area to ensure that the families receiving items are genuinely "in need."
In a recent visit to an organization in Des Moines, a good friend and I learned how they were administering a similar program to help families in need. They informed us that in one year, they provided beds to close to 300 families. Just think of the children that no longer have to sleep on a cold floor. Our Bridging the Gap program hopes to accomplish the same thing. We know the need exists right here in our own community.
During this visit to Des Moines, we were touched by a real-life story about two young boys who left a domestic violence shelter with their mother. Their mother was able to rent an apartment but did not have the funds to purchase any furniture. The Des Moines organization helped this family by delivering some used furniture to their home. A volunteer noticed in the boys' bedroom that all their clothes were in a heap on the floor. After a dresser was brought into the bedroom, the boys still did not pick up their clothes. The volunteer asked the boys why they didn't pick up the clothes and put them in the dresser. The older brother simply said, "because that is where we sleep. Our pile of clothes keeps us warm." When the volunteers brought in and set up bunk beds, you could just imagine the looks on the faces of those two boys. After hearing this story, our purpose became very clear.
For most of us, each day we get out of our bed and start our day by sitting at the kitchen table, drinking our coffee and watching the morning news. It is easy to take that simple act for granted. Yet, there are many families in our community that do not have these simple pleasures. They don't have a bed, a kitchen table, or even a coffee maker. Life for these families is an everyday struggle. We can now help make a difference.
The goal of Bridging the Gap is to help make these families' lives easier and brighter. In many ways, it is all about the children in these families. There is no question that a child getting a good night's sleep in his or her own bed is going to be better prepared to go to school, learn and achieve than if the child slept on a cold drafty floor the night before. Bridging the Gap is all about touching the lives of a child or family in need in our community.
It is easy - all you need to do is look around your home and identify the items you no longer need, that are still in good condition, and make a phone call to Community Connections Volunteer Center at 955-8880. You can either make an appointment to drop off items, or we can have our volunteers come and pick up items. Items we have the greatest need for are beds, dressers, microwaves and all kitchen items. All we ask is that donated items be in decent and usable condition.
On Friday and Saturday, Bridging the Gap is hosting a community kickoff event at Fort Dodge Ford Toyota. We are asking community members who have items they wish to donate to bring them to Fort Dodge Ford Toyota on Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or on Saturday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Help us fill several trucks with furniture and household items to help local families in need. Each person bringing donations with an estimated value of $20 or more will receive a free car wash token from Fort Dodge Ford Toyota. If you have large items you wish to donate, please call 955-8880 and volunteers will come to your residence to pick up the items.
Community Connections Volunteer Center would like to thank the following businesses and organizations for their support of Bridging the Gap: Athletics for Education and Success, Fort Dodge Ford Toyota, United Parcel Service, The Messenger and Three Eagles Radio. These local organizations and businesses have seen the need in our community and are helping make a difference in people's lives. You can to. Please help us "Bridge the Gap."
Jessica Martens is coordinator of the Community Connections Volunteer Center.