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Staff Spotlight - Yoko Kono

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

My family and I started volunteering for Hands4Hope-Youth Making A Difference over 11 years ago. My interest in helping people started in middle school when I became a “mommy’s helper” to our family friend who had a daughter with Fukuyama Congenital Muscular Dystrophy. I spent time playing and socializing with her even though she was non-verbal and had difficulties with mobility. Through this experience, I developed a passion to work with people with special needs and began volunteering for Special Olympics in High School and throughout my college years. I then became an Occupational Therapist for a short period before I had my 3 boys. I discovered Hands4Hope-Youth MakingADifference through my boys’ elementary school and we began volunteering as a family. I started working for Hands4Hope-Youth Making A Difference 6 years ago, where I get to volunteer and pursue my love of helping those in need in our community.

When my family and I started volunteering for Hands4Hope-Youth Making A Difference, my 3 boys were in preschool and elementary school. Our favorite event was the Sacramento Homeless Outreach where we made sandwiches in the back room of the El Dorado Hills Raleys, put together a bag lunch, packed up some toiletries and caravanned to a street near Loaves and Fishes. We would set up tables along the fence line and lay out all the lunches and big containers of hot chocolate or lemonade depending on the season. People who were homeless would come by and offer help to set up or just to see what we were doing. They were always so grateful for the lunches and the toiletries. My young boys’ favorite thing to do was helping the homeless people pick out the toiletries they wanted. Now my boys are in high school and college, and when they see someone on the streets, they are quick to find something in the car to offer whether it be a snack, cash, or just a “hey, how’s it going” and an acknowledgment that we see them and they are not invisible.

Over the years, Hands4Hope-Youth Making a Difference has seen tremendous growth. We have clubs at 7 middle schools and 6 high schools, and have partnered with 60 different agencies and organizations throughout El Dorado and Sacramento counties. We have various year long and seasonal after-school committees, and numerous Community Engagement opportunities. We have seen 5,097 volunteers since Hands4Hope - Youth Making a Difference started in 2008. Our programs have groomed leaders with a genuine love to serve others. It gives me hope, especially in these trying times, to know they are out there leading by example. One of my favorite parts is getting a text message or a phone call from a Hands4Hope alumni asking if I can be a reference for a “real” adult job they are applying for. It touches my heart to know that I had a part in their life where they had meaningful experiences and growth.

As the Community Engagement Coordinator at Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference, I get to work closely with other staff members, board members, partner agencies, adult volunteers, and of course our youth volunteers, building friendships based on a common goal. I get to directly work alongside them to help the most vulnerable people in our community. I get to see the wonderful interactions amongst the people we serve and the volunteers. And most of all, at the end of each event, I get to say that this is my job! Thank you to all my dedicated adult volunteers and my inspiring youth volunteers. I could not do my job without your support.


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