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Through Public Allies Arizona, I was placed at AZCEND as the Family Resource Center Coordinator. AZCEND is a one-stop-shop for families in the Chandler/Gilbert community. AZCEND offers food boxes through their Food Bank, rent and utility assistance though the Community Action Program (CAP), and senior programs through the Chandler Senior Center and the Gilbert Community Center. In addition, they offer case management for homeless clients in the Interfaith Home Emergency Lodging Program (I-HELP). At AZCEND, they aim to change lives by nourishing minds and bodies to create a connected, thriving community.
Within the Family Resource Center parenting workshops, early literacy programs, Giggles, Squiggles and Squirms (G.S.S,) child watch, and community health are offered. I set up and coordinated parenting workshops, helped with G.S.S, and assisted with child watch. In addition, I attended networking and community events to do outreach for our programs.
My biggest accomplishment with my FRC team was Operation Santa. Operation Santa is an annual Christmas gift assistance program. In 2017, AZCEND provided Christmas gifts for over 480 children. Anyone can get involved with Operation Santa. Donors assist with ‘Adopt a Family’ program, donations of new toys/clothing, monetary donations and volunteer their time. The biggest contributor is Chandler Compadres who adopted 20 families. Before “shopping day,” which is where the families come and pick out gifts for their children, AXCEND hosts a community Christmas party. The Christmas party consists of games, raffles, arts and crafts, food and pictures with Santa.
One family of three showed me the true value of serving the community. An 18-year-old boy named John is raising his two younger siblings who are 15 and 13 after their parents were unexpectedly deported. John became the sole provider for his siblings. At first, he was embarrassed to ask for assistance, but with the help of his aunt and sister, he was able to ask for help. We were able to provide them with Christmas gifts, holiday food box and a grocery gift card. Right before Christmas day, we learned that John, working a fulltime job to provide for his family, did not have a bed. Through the generosity of the community, a futon was donated. We drove it over to John’s house right away and he was beyond grateful.
The opportunity to serve him and families like him was very humbling to me and it made my 10 months working with Public Allies at AZCEND worth it.
Samantha Witter was part of Public Allies' Class 12. Samantha was placed as the Family Resource Center Coordinator at AZCEND. Public Allies Arizona is a 10-month apprenticeship program designed to develop the next generation of civic leaders.