Each year as the holidays approach we are given many opportunities to help others who may be far away from loved ones or struggling financially. It is usually those difficult times in our lives that tend to influence those areas we are most touched by and how we choose to participate in giving back to others during this time of year. This will be my second holiday season in Arizona and I am heartened and humbled by how DES employees continue to show their generosity and compassion for the consumers we serve in the communities around our state.
On my recent visit to the Multi-Service Center in Yuma, one employee showed me a towering pile of clothing, shoes and several brightly wrapped gifts, proudly explaining how she and her fellow employees had collected the items so a struggling single father and his five children could celebrate a joyful holiday. This is just one of many examples throughout the agency that demonstrate the kindness of DES employees in thinking about others.
While there are many of you who are giving back, I wanted to share some of the special outreach projects DES employees have spearheaded this holiday season:
Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS)
Led by the Health and Wellness Coordinator and Legal Services Developer, DAAS employees “adopted” a family for the holidays who immigrated from Kosovo to the United States in 1999. This eleven-member family is headed by a mother and father who speak only Albanian and provide care for their young adult child who is developmentally disabled. Throughout the years, this family has struggled financially and was forced to move every year from Section 8 Housing until volunteers from Habitat for Humanity built the family a new home. The father recently lost his job and has had to rely on his English-speaking children to provide translation; helping both parents through interviews as needed for acquiring services.While this family had a new house, they were unable to fill it with personal items that would help to make it their home. So in the spirit of giving, DAAS employees collected clothing, dolls, stuffed animals, books, games, toys, and diapers as one way to brighten this family’s holiday.
Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE)
Through the coordinated efforts of two employees in the Southern Arizona Region, DES is giving back to our military service members and families. DCSE employees are active participants in the Central Arizona Chapter of Blue Star Moms which is an organization dedicated to helping military families. A collection drive kicked off after Veterans Day and continued through the end of November to ensure the troops would receive the items in time for the holidays. Employees displayed a Military Tribute Tree decked out with military colors. The gifts included food and hygiene items, recreational games, books and magazines. Everything collected went to the United Service Organization (USO) and the Army National Guard to be distributed as needed to military personnel and their families.
Attorney General’s Office, Child and Family Protection Division
The work of this Division is designed to support abused and neglected children. This year, as in previous years, the Protective Services Section has “adopted” 38 children living in DES group homes for gift giving during the holidays. The combined efforts of employees, their friends and family, as well as some Girl Scout troops, contributed to this worthy cause. The group gathered for a wrapping party and arranged for the gifts to be delivered to the children before the holiday.
Division of Benefits and Medical Eligibility (DBME)
DBME employees wanted to show their appreciation to the men and women serving overseas by gathering donated items for care packages and sending them to seven soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan. They sent hand warmers, sweets and non-perishable packaged foods, holiday decorations, footballs, board games, hygiene items and small toys that the soldiers can give to children in Afghanistan.
One unit joined with Child Protective Services for a Thanksgiving food and personal items drive at the Multi-Service Center in Glendale for CPS families.
Early December saw several employees volunteering their time to help with the Arizona Dental Mission of Mercy (AZ-MOM) at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. This first time event for our state was sponsored by the Central Arizona Dental Society Foundation with volunteer dental technicians assisting more than2,000 participants with a variety of dental needs. A participating surgeon roughly estimated that over $800,000 in dental work was provided during this two-day outreach. People waited in line overnight and came from as far away as Prescott to receive needed dental care.
Family Assistance Administration (FAA), Customer Service Support (Call Center)
During those times when our temperatures drop and the air takes on a chill, warm clothing is never more appreciated. Our employees in the Family Assistance Administration office held a “Warm Clothing Drive,” to collect new and gently used coats, sweat shirts, and long pants for all ages and genders for families who must seek temporary refuge at domestic violence shelters. Families receiving services from the five Tucson offices benefited from FAA employees’ participation in the Toys for Tots campaign drive.
Division of Business and Finance (DBF)
I recently received an email from a DES Office of Procurement employee who finds that when she gives of her time to do something special for others, she also ends up with a rewarding experience. Her participation in The Elks Club Christmas Shopping Spree for Kids did just that as this event provided $100 gift cards, a lunch and visit with Santa and a gift to each child, as well as a shopping spree at a local department store.
Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF)
Often adolescent foster youth living in group homes have few resources that many of us take for granted. These youth are learning independent living skills and often need items that assist them with cooking, cleaning and laundry tasks. DCYF staff, located across several units, took it upon themselves to collect these items and plan to donate them to the CPS Young Adult Program for distribution to our youth across the state.
In Tucson, an ongoing and an investigative unit coordinates a holiday visitation party for families whose children are in out-of-home care. Refreshments and gifts for each child are donated with a visit by Santa being a highlight as it gives parents an opportunity to have photos taken of their children while providing another opportunity to spend time with them during the holidays.
While this time of year may inspire us to give more of ourselves, I look forward to continuing our efforts of helping others throughout the coming year. It will be through our transformation efforts that we can most help the people we serve by growing their capacity and moving them beyond their need for public assistance.
As we wrap up 2012, I would like to thank each of you for the work you do every day in serving socially and economically challenged Arizonans and wish you a happy and safe holiday season with your loved ones.
Clarence H. Carter