Darrell Hargis did volunteer work at Helen's Hope Chest, Mesa United Way's free clothing "store" for foster children, for about a year until a change in his employment schedule forced him to withdraw. But he and his wife still find ways to help, mainly by searching garage sales on weekends for the highest-demand items at Helen's.
Hargis recently sent a letter to Cathy Grosso, manager of Helen's Hope Chest, titled "What helping foster children means to me," with the hope that his experience would inspire others to help. Here are excerpts:
"I thoroughly enjoyed sweeping floors, cleaning bathrooms, sorting, washing and distributing clothes. My favorite task, however, was watching foster parents outfit their foster children with much needed clothing, school supplies, shoes and personal care products.
"I continue to be involved with Helen's by donating items. I drop off clothes, shoes, toys, movies and other things weekly. I find all of these at garage sales in the East Valley every week. My wife and I enjoy going to garage sales as a hobby. We are constantly on the lookout for any of the things Helen's needs to stock the center.
"Since foster children range from infants to age 18, include boys and girls, and need everything that any child needs, we can search for just about anything a child can wear or use. What really matters is condition and price. I never know what I will find. It is actually quite an adventure. I liken it to an adult's version of a scavenger hunt.
"I particularly look for boys' clothes, jeans and shoes. These items are always in short supply at Helen's. All clothes and shoes need to be in excellent to near new condition with no stains. These foster children deserve to be dressed as nicely as any other child in his or her class. Toys, socks and underwear must be new. Used family and children's movies, bother VHS and DVD, are always appreciated. Backpacks and school supplies literally fly off the shelves at Helen's. Good children's books are welcome.
"I love to help foster children this way. These children are in foster care because they have no aunt, uncle, grandparent or family friend to take them in. There are over 14,000 children in Arizona in foster care and hundreds more on a waiting list to be placed in a foster home. I can at least give them good clothes, shoes, backpacks and a toy. By doing my small part I am making a difference in the lives of hundreds of kids who depend on Helen's for their clothes."
To learn more about Helen's Hope Chest and Mesa United Way, and how you can help, go to www.mesaunitedway.org.