2020 brought new challenges to our community and added extra strain to issues Northwest Louisiana already faces. However, we found that even during the most difficult times, United Way of Northwest Louisiana’s volunteers show perseverance in their drive to put our community’s needs first. Due to the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, United Way had to find innovative ways to serve our community, while keeping volunteers safe. After creating a new model for volunteer opportunities, volunteers were more ready than ever to lend a helping hand where it was needed.
At the beginning of the pandemic, 80 individuals volunteered to become a Virtual Volunteer Reader. They submitted over 90 videos of themselves reading children’s stories to spread some joy during a dark time. When it was time for Northwest Louisiana students to return to school, companies and organizations hosted workplace school supply drives as an alternative to our annual Fill the Bus event. As a result, 30 large boxes and over 50 backpacks were filled with school supplies and donated to children who needed them most. Volunteers also stepped up to the plate when our area’s nonprofits needed essential items to stay afloat. During October, Bossier Parish Schools rallied together and collected over 10,000 essential items, resulting in over $16,000 in economic support. In addition, Caddo Parish Schools is currently gathering essential items for their Month of Service, also aiming for a significant outcome.
To say we are proud of our community is an understatement. This past year was not ideal for anyone; however, our volunteers provided the life raft that kept our community from sinking. While we are not completely out of the dark yet and will likely continue to face repercussions from these unprecedented times, we have faith that our region is there to provide support for whatever obstacle comes our way. Not only have we found new ways for our volunteers to make a difference, but they have shown initiative by creating their own plans to give back.
Caddo Middle Magnet students took matters into their own hands by devising a community service plan that would impact our community and keep them safe during the pandemic. Eva Snead, Hannah Clarke, Mia Kiihnl, and Mary Allen hosted a virtual bake sale, which included an assortment of brownies and cookies. The proceeds from their sale will sponsor two children in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. This early childhood literacy program provides one free book per month to each child from birth to age five and fosters a love of reading for children to help prepare them for kindergarten success.
“All kids should have the opportunity to read and learn even if they don’t have the means to do so. Helping my Aunt during the snowstorm made me realize everyone can do something.”
We are so grateful to all of our volunteers over the years for their unwavering support and motivation to change lives in Northwest Louisiana. Our volunteers go above and beyond, and we could not do what we do without their help. So, thank you, volunteers, for every tree planted, supply donated, book read, and for every cookie baked. You have proved that UNITED, we have the power to push forward and create change in our community, no matter the setback.
Community Engagement & Creative Coordinator