Last month, more than 100 businesses gathered in the warehouse of Arizona Helping Hands (AHH) to learn about making a contribution to the organization’s annual toy drive. In its first year, AHH was able to provide 500 kids with toys and books for the holiday season. This year, the goal is 30,000 gifts. And thanks to the local community, it’s not far out of reach.
The organization was founded in 1998 by Kathy and Paul Donaldson, who wanted to honor Kathy’s late sister’s wish of“one good deed being done every day.” The mission of AHH is “to provide essential needs for children in foster care through our programs promoting safety, permanency and health.”
“One of her first initiatives happened around the holiday season. Kathy’s goal was that every child had a toy to open during the holidays,” said CEO Dan Shufelt. “The birth of this program started with taking boxes to friends, family and local businesses to donate.”
The initiative has grown exponentially over the years to include nationwide organizations such as Southwest Airlines, GoDaddy and UPS.
“There are small, medium and big businesses that have seen the importance of the work that we do and want to support it,” Shufelt said.
UPS driver Jeremy Giles has been a part of AHH’s toy drive for the past three years.
“One of the account reps was approached by Helping Hands and I wanted to do my part to help,” Giles said.
Giles decided to get the community involved by creating a raffle for those who donate a toy or two to the drive.
“Jeremy has been really innovative with the things that he’s done,” Shufelt said.
“I started in October this year, reaching out to businesses to see if they wanted to donate gift cards for the raffle,” Giles said. “So far, we’ve reached 20 businesses.”
At the end of the toy drive, each gift card will be raffled off – someone will even win Arizona Cardinals or Coyotes tickets.
“To me, this is all about the community,” Giles said. “It’s not about me, it’s bigger – our community coming together to donate to this cause.”
Other businesses have started contests to get people to donate. A couple of local Culver’s restaurants are holding a contest to see which one can generate the most toys.
Sherie Siegel started working for AHH four years ago. She wanted to continue her work in nonprofit organizations and she had heard about the nonprofit from a former board member. Siegel became the first full-time hire shortly after that.
“It’s incredible to see how this organization has truly grown,” Siegel said. “It’s so great to see how many businesses have chosen to support us year after year and creating meaningful experiences with them.”
Folks are able to donate brand-new toys and books to the holiday toy drive up until December 10; there is also an Amazon wish list available on the website.
There are two opportunities for people to volunteer their time, as well. The first is an adults-only “Fill Santa’s Sleigh” event happening on December 4 for those who want to donate and help fill toy bags for kids. The second event on December 8 is kid-friendly, with toy donations, snacks and crafts for little ones. For more: azhelpinghands.org.