During difficult times, having people around to help can change a person’s life in monumental ways. Flagstaff has a variety of organizations that help serve the community in different ways. These organizations welcome anyone from local residents to NAU students. The Literacy Center of Coconino County, Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project and the Sunshine Rescue Mission are just a few organizations making an impact.
The Literacy Center aims to make reading available and affordable to people of all ages. They offer services including one-on-one tutoring and literacy classes, among others. These classes are taught by literacy professionals at both its main facility and in other areas within the community. The center’s staff helps with traditional topics, as well as English as a second language and citizenship.
Volunteers are welcome to assist with The Literacy Centers daily operations. According to their 2018 annual report, 162 volunteers provided 5,216 hours of literacy instruction and aid. This instruction benefits people seeking to improve their education. The Literacy Center Executive Director Dianna Sanchez is in charge of financial management as well as staff management.
“We have a good mix of older volunteers and younger student volunteers,” Sanchez said. “We oftentimes ask our volunteers to give us a one-year commitment because our learners need that consistency for them to make gains in their educations.”
Volunteers can assist with office work, tutoring and even outside programs. Since the organization is privately funded, The Literacy Center has no restrictions on who they can help. Junior Paige Falkengren, who volunteers at The Literacy Center, explained her passion for helping those that come into the center.
“My job is pretty cool and what I love about this place is that it is extremely flexible when it comes to volunteering,” Falkengren said. “You can help with inmates or even anyone that just comes into the office that needs immediate help.”
Another organization that welcomes new volunteers is the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project. This project is based out of Flagstaff and works towards the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf in the wild.
According to the organization’s pamphlet, the Mexican gray wolves inhabited areas such as the Grand Canyon region for 10,000 years until the federal government began eliminating the species in the 1970s. This act put these wolves on the endangered species list and since then the wolves have been bred in captivity and placed back into the wild. They are still endangered and are the rarest of all gray wolf species.
The Mexican gray wolves still face ongoing problems to this day. Emily Renn, executive director of the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, said one of these problems is brought on by local hunters. Previously, organizations put on predator hunts where hunters are recruited to kill animals for prizes and cash rewards. Usually, these events were held and regulated as a form of population control. However, the organization worked to pass a resolution through the Flagstaff City Council to eliminate these killing contests.
Recently, City Council passed a resolution to ban competative hunting Feb. 19. See news story on page 4 for more information.
“That’s a way to help protect other predators and wolves so they don’t mistakenly get shot by people thinking it is a coyote during these big contest hunts,” Renn said.
Volunteers of the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project are involved by attending Arizona Game and Fish Department meetings, City Council meetings and take part in education and outreach programs. Renn encourages volunteers to use their skills to help the organization.
Volunteer Annette Sunda said volunteers in the past have used their skills in art, marketing and legal affairs to help the cause.
“I know we had an art student who came in to help and we have had a few interns that have helped,” Sunda said. “[Volunteers] are generally from the environmental sciences, but we are open to anyone who wants experience.”
An additional nonprofit organization within the Flagstaff community is the Sunshine Rescue Mission. Their mission is to assist the homeless as well as victims of domestic violence and abuse. The organization started in 1957 and currently holds an 85 percent success rate in getting people back on their feet and into more ideal living arrangements. Volunteer coordinator Carlos Nixon explained their services and what they do to help the community, which include daily meals, basic hygiene, providing clothing and rehabilitation.
“This mission here is kind of like a home away from home for these people that come in every day,” Nixon said. “We’ve already got around 1,500 meals put out [in February].”
The North Country Medial Center is partnered with Sunshine Rescue Mission to assist the homeless that come in. Medical professionals come from North Country every Thursday so the homeless can receive medical checkups, X-ray referrals and prescription refills.
“It is truly difficult for the people that come into our organization to get out to North Country because it is on the east side of town and a lot of these guys can’t afford to take a bus,” Nixon said. “So we partnered up with the health center so the people who can’t get out there can come here and get free checkups.”
Each year, the Sunshine Rescue Mission receives about 3,000 volunteers who help at their various locations. Dorsey Manor is the name of their men’s transitional housing program where members can adjust back into society in an affordable drug and alcohol-free environment. They also operate Hope Cottage where women and children who are victims of domestic abuse can go and seek shelter among other benefits.
Nixon said that with their various locations, there is never a shortage of things for volunteers to help with. Volunteering is also very flexible so that even people with busy schedules could find time to give back.
“I work around [peoples] schedule, which makes it easier for them to come in and volunteer with us,” Nixon said. “It makes it easier for me when students let me know what their schedules are so I bring them in at certain times.”
Nixon also helps homeless members and encourages volunteers to assist whenever they get a chance. He said his work is very rewarding and he wouldn’t want to do anything else with his time.
“It’s not about the paychecks or anything like that, it’s about what I can do for the people who come in here each and every day,” Nixon said. “We are not just a mission, we are here for a purpose and that purpose is to stop homelessness.”
These three organizations are just a few of the opportunities available for NAU students and Flagstaff residents to give back to their community. Although busy schedules can be hard to work around, these places and many others are willing to be flexible to ensure they have the volunteers they need.
“I really think that reaching outside of NAU to find volunteer opportunities gives students the opportunity to engage in the community and build those community networks,” Sunda said. “Those community connections are really beneficial for the students and the community at large.”