United Way of Northwest Louisiana’s (UWNWLA) socially distanced essential needs drive, an alternative to their traditional Day of Service, yielded more than 8,000 essential items and more than $14,000 of economic support from 13 Caddo Parish Public School teams. For a month, schools in Caddo Parish were paired with one of 13 participating local nonprofits and given a list of the nonprofit’s essential needs. Once paired, teams of students and staff departments volunteered to collect essential items. Many teams volunteered additional time by inventorying and sorting their collections in preparation for pick-up.
UWNWLA’s annual Day of Service events for schools in Caddo and Bossier parishes provide several benefits to Northwest Louisiana; the events allow students, teachers, and staff to get involved with their community while emphasizing the importance of volunteerism to students. “My experience in the Honor Society has opened up a new gateway for helping people in need and the less fortunate,” said James Walker, Donnie Bickham Middle School student. “Helping inventory the items we gathered helped me see how much people also want to help others.”
Volunteers are crucial for nonprofits to complete projects that may be delayed due to staff and labor costs. In 2019, more than 250 Caddo School volunteers completed projects that saved participating nonprofits $18,162 in labor expenses. Despite an unavoidable lack of in-person volunteering, UWNWLA’s alternative approach made a significant impact when partnered with local schools. “Through this adjustment, we have seen successful collection drives provide thousands of dollars in essential supplies for local nonprofits,” said Harper McKnight, Community Engagement Coordinator. “Collection drives have made volunteering more accessible to elementary school students. This gives teachers, principals, and parents the opportunity to explain the importance of volunteerism at a young age.”