To View the 2020-2021 Mid Year Update, click the image below.
To read our full stories mentioned in the Mid Year Update, please continue reading below.
Outreach Stats Recap (June - December 2020)
In response to the pandemic, the Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference staff and Board got creative and revamped outreaches and events to make it safe for both our volunteers and those we serve. The Community Engagement Program continued to provide meaningful monthly outreaches at Mercy Creekview Manor (senior housing), Green Valley Community Church, Loaves & Fishes’ Sister Nora’s Place, and even started a new partnership with The Upper Room in Placerville to serve those who are food insecure. We also helped distribute food with Placer Food Bank and assisted with a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Our youth participants learned to make face shields from scratch, with guidance from our former board member Doug Busch, to donate to healthcare workers at Marshall Hospital and Mercy Medical Group.
In addition to continuing our outreach events, we also added many in-home volunteer opportunities for those who preferred to help the community from the safety of their own homes. Hands4Hope youth participants made over 1,000 cards to cheer up low income seniors who were isolated and lonely, as well as over 1,000 craft kits to help pass their time, and countless desserts to satisfy their cravings. They also made special 4th of July door hangers and 200 stockings stuffed with treats, crafts, and puzzles for Christmas to brighten their spirits during the holidays. Additionally, our Annual School Supply Drive provided backpacks stuffed with school supplies to 400 students! This is the highest number of students served in the history of our Drive.
Folsom Middle School Expansion
A high note in a year when so many cancelled programs and activities made opportunities for youth to serve rare, we expanded our school based Education Program to Folsom Middle School this academic year. The Folsom Middle School Hands4Hope Club is made up of 30 students, including a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Public Relations Coordinator.
When COVID-19 restrictions tightened in Spring of 2020, a strong showing of student interest by Folsom Middle School students and support from school administration and the PTO encouraged the Hands4Hope staff to move forward with the new club, which joins the already established Folsom-based Hands4Hope Clubs at Folsom High and Sutter Middle Schools.
The youth are working on raising funds through an online website to purchase supplies for gift bags to be distributed to doctors and nurses, starting at Mercy Hospital in Folsom.
President of the Folsom Middle Hands4Hope Club Azalia Mutebi said she is glad for the opportunity to help others and leave an impact on her community. “Despite the challenges and setbacks that come with being in a pandemic and being in quarantine,” she said, “I’m thankful that we are having this journey because it allows us to grow and learn as a team and gives us time to reflect on ourselves.”
That theme of resilience was echoed by Treasurer Tanish Shirolkar, “Social distancing and Covid in general have brought up a problem for us because it makes it so that we can't interact with people as much as we used to. We have overcome this by scheduling our club meetings on Zoom every other week. We also follow strict Covid guidelines when we do events like the Stop, Pop and Go food drive for the Folsom Community Serve Day in September.”
“I am excited to be a part of Hands4Hope because I feel like even the smallest differences,” said Shirolkar, “have a massive impact on our society.”
Helping her students find that passion and their voice is why Margie Komatsu, a counselor at Folsom Middle School, says she wanted to bring Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference to her school. “I am so pleased and excited for Hands4Hope to be at Folsom Middle School as this is something I have wanted for many years,” she said, “since my nieces joined during middle and high school in El Dorado Hills.” Watching their experience made her proud to be a part of an organization where she feels like she can make a difference.
With Folsom Middle’s club underway now, Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference has been laying the groundwork for starting a new club at Vista del Lago High School. A Folsom Steering Committee has already been formed and meets regularly. This club would round out clubs at all middle and high schools in Folsom. Our Folsom expansion has been made possible with the generous support of The New Home Company and dedication of the Folsom Middle School administration.
LAUNCHED YOUTH MANAGED EMERGENCY FOOD PANTRY
The Hands4Hope Placerville Youth Center’s remodeling and opening were delayed due to the pandemic, however, our youth took this opportunity to research and start an Emergency Food Pantry in response to the increased food insecurity caused by COVID-19. The Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference Emergency Food Pantry will provide food to insecure students, families, and individuals on the Western Slope. Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference is partnering with El Dorado County Office of Education (EDCOE), Placerville Union School District (PUSD), El Dorado County SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education, Placer Food Bank, and Twin Lakes Food Bank to create and run this pantry, as well as identify those most in need of food assistance. The food pantry is being organized and run by youth, with guidance provided by representatives from our identified community partners, as well as Robyn and Chris Parker. It is inspiring to see our youth and their adult mentors work to help fill the gap. This is a wonderful example of how Hands4Hope works with young people in developing skills that take ideas, such as this food pantry, and turn them into action.
The Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference Emergency Food Pantry was originally stocked with food collected during the youth organized Hands4Hope Fall Food Roundup in September 2020, where our youth collected 3,000 pounds of food and raised $800 to stock the shelves! The youth organized the shelves with the food, created forms for our partners to make requests, a process for packing bags and boxes, and a safe process for distributing these during the pandemic. The youth were able to test some of their processes when they partnered with Blue Shield of California and the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department to distribute food baskets during the holidays.
The Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference Emergency Food Pantry officially opened in January 2021, serving 50 families referred by EDCOE. The Emergency Food Pantry Committee’s plan is to serve 250 individuals per month by June, as well as provide training and mentorship to 10 youth leaders and committee members in 2021.
As far as progress on the renovation of the Placerville Youth Center - thanks to the volunteer efforts of some local talent, we were able to demo the interior and start the buildout in August of 2020. The Home Depot grant covered the supplies and Rich Galli of Richard Galli Construction organized the demo and framed the new walls, while John Hill donated his electrical services, running wire, adding lights, and updating outlets, and H n D Construction installed the drywall and textured the walls. Behr Paint Company provided a grant for paint and made a teambuilder out of painting the interior and Robyn and Chris Parker scraped the floors and filled the gaps in preparation for laying the flooring. Next we will install cabinets, then flooring, then AV equipment and final touches, before furnishing. We hope to be able to invite you to an open house in July, or possibly a private tour sooner.
We are so grateful to all who have made this possible, including the Latrobe Fund who provided a matching grant that allowed us to secure this space back in February 2020, and of all you who donated to make the match possible.
“Being able to provide food to those in need allows me to find the good in our community, especially during the pandemic. The ability to be part of the committee building this pantry allows me to feel a sense of purpose and a part of my community.” Emma Lopez, Hands4Hope Food Pantry Committee & El Dorado High School sophomore
Winter Boutique Serves 151 Families, providing warm clothing, blankets and shoes to 703 individuals in El Dorado and Sacramento Counties
COVID-19 did not stop Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference from hosting its annual Warm and Fuzzy Drive and Winter Boutique this year. It definitely provided challenges, but despite these over 5,800 warm clothing items were collected, 169 no-sew blankets were made, and 703 individuals in need were served.
The Winter Boutique is coordinated and staffed by youth participants and volunteers, and stocked with items from Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference’s Warm and Fuzzy drive, which was organized and run by Youth Intern Elise Taylor from Folsom High School. The no-sew, handmade blankets were made by volunteers in the safety of their homes instead of the annual Blanket Making Party that Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference hosts.
Visitors to the Winter Boutique, hosted in space donated by El Dorado Hills Town Center, had the opportunity to shop for all members of their family. This year 151 families benefited, with a total of 703 individuals served. Only a limited number of items were not distributed at this year’s event and were donated to nine of Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference’s partner agencies in the community, including The Upper Room, Green Valley Community Church, Hope House, Placerville Union School District, and Sister Nora’s Place.
This year’s Winter Boutique Planning Committee did a fantastic job rolling with the uncertainty of putting on a pop-up shop during a pandemic, with an ever changing set of guidelines. The committee, led by Winter Boutique youth intern Nivi Sudhir Kumar, was dedicated to serving those in need while keeping safe - with face masks, temperature checks, and hand sanitizing. The Boutique was open for four days with extended hours to allow for a more socially distant shopping experience. Simone Caruthers, the decorations and set up chair, took the lead in designing the boutique to look like a Winter Wonderland, with twinkle lights, an inflatable polar bear, and handmade penguins created by committee members. Grace Brasil, the marketing chair, led her group in marketing the boutique to agencies in El Dorado and Sacramento Counties. Ria Kale and Meghna Sehrawat took on the behind the scenes role of creating and monitoring all the service opportunities for volunteers.
“I have gotten to know more of who I am through forming different experiences with Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference. I developed a deep sense of gratitude for everything I have, after noticing how many people struggle for resources that we often take for granted, like fresh food and clothes.” Nivi Sudhir Kumar, Winter Boutique Committee Chair, Vista del Lago High School Student