Mesa Mayor Scott Smith joined six other Arizona mayors and about 1,700 around the U.S. Tuesday for the Mayor’s Day of National Recognition to honor the deeds of community volunteers locally and across the nation.
Smith said one of his favorite parts of his position is meeting people like the volunteers present because they are “people who don’t get headlines, they don’t have a news report about them.
“They don’t have an article about them. They don’t get nice things said about them,” he added. “They do it because they care.”
The recognition ceremony was at Helen’s Hope Chest, 546 N. Stapley Drive, Mesa, where more than a dozen local volunteers took photos with the mayor, as well as Marguerite Kondracke, Community Service Board member for the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps VISTA Director Mary Strasser and Mesa United Way CEO Dan Wollam.
Helen’s Hope Chest is a United Way center that helps families with foster children — whether they are being fostered by family or by others — with clothing, books, school supplies and personal care needs.
The volunteers were regular Helen’s Hope Chest workers, along with local youths and adults who participated in various projects with the center.
Smith, who is the incoming president of the National Conference of Mayors — he’s the first Arizonan to hold the position — said community service sets the country apart from others on the globe. East Valley mayors who also supported the day of recognition includes Chandler’s Jay Tibshraeny, Gilbert’s John Lewis and Tempe’s Mark Mitchell.
“I don’t think people realize how unique this culture of service that we have in America and in our communities is in this world,” Smith said. “There is no other nation in this world that gives like Americans give.”
Strasser said she had heard of the work of Helen’s Hope Chest all the way in Washington, D.C. about a year ago while preparing a report for the White House.
“I was prospecting on a story for the White House and I zeroed right in on this facility never knowing that I would actually have the opportunity to be here and to see it and to meet the people who created it,” Strasser recalled.
Wollam said the center is unique because while others have struggled with donations during the recession and trickling recovery, Helen’s Hope Chest has not been so depleted.
“If anything, I think Helen’s Hope Chest has thrived during this period,” Wollam said. “I really believe the American people like to care and like to give.”
He added: “Everyone cares about children.”
Wollam said the center also has strong community ties with the Boy Scouts and other community organizations who often target the center for completion of their Eagle Scout requirements or rites of other organizations.
They’ve lead drives, built a quilt rack that takes up nearly an entire wall of the inside of the building and one even arranged and organized the center’s move about six months ago from a previous facility. The current home is its third as the center that serves children from all over Maricopa County has grown.
“Helen’s touches the heart,” Wollam said, accounting for the center’s success and the community’s response to it.
Wollam said the center faces ongoing needs for jeans and underwear.
Following the ceremony, Smith took a tour of the facility and even moved and sorted some clothing racks.
“This building has been through many different lives,” said Smith, who grew up about four blocks from the center’s location. “But I can tell you that there is nothing that has been inside these walls that will have the impact on people — that will change lives — like what is being done now.”
Similar ceremonies for volunteers from other cities spanned the day.
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