This year, 3,000 children who did not have beds are now able to sleep in the comfort of their own, according to Arizona Helping Hands.
Arizona Helping Hands has a mission to provide basic needs for foster care children across Arizona.
Dan Shufelt, CEO and President, spearheaded this mission that began in 2013.
“Why are there 14,000 uninvestigated cases?” Shufelt said. “Why aren’t these kids being taken care of?”
Shufelt decided to reach out to foster families and found that one of the main issues they faced was that there was no place for a foster family to get a bed for their child to sleep in.
“Every bed, every crib that we give out, we purchase, and all those assorted sundries, we purchase,” Shufelt said. “All the stuff that’s included in the twin bed package that has a retail value of about $600 per unit.”
Arizona Helping Hands pays for these beds and accessories through tax credit.
Since the tax credit was founded, the funds for the organization almost doubled, with a high of $3,028,902 in 2014, the year after it was introduced.
This is a 223 percent increase from just four years prior when they received $937,427 in public support.
“The tax credit is the reason why we’re here,” said Sherie Siegel, the Vice President of Operations at Arizona Helping Hands.” It’s just incredible that as tax payers, we have the opportunity to decide where our money goes to.”
Siegel is one of the nine staff members Shufelt has had to hire due to the rapid growth of the organization over the past three years, compared to the “one and a half” he previously had.
“Because of the tax credit we were able to expand our services in three areas last year,” Siegel said. “I mean that’s huge. Aside from increasing the number of beds we’re giving out to families, to now also being able to provide the teen birthday gifts, a pillow and a blanket with the beds and then also the licensing safety requirement items.”
The mission to focus on foster care only came about six years ago. According to Shufelt, Arizona Helping Hands is now the largest provider for foster families in Arizona.
In addition to provided beds, the organization also runs a Holiday Toy Drive and a Birthday Dream Program, along with various other smaller programs to show that these children matter, according to Shufelt.
“It frustrated me that we couldn’t clearly state who we were, what our mission was… One of my advisors referred to us as an organization at that point in time that was a mile wide and an inch deep. We were doing a lot of good stuff for people, but not really having an impact in any particular area.”
When they began, they only donated seven beds in one month. This November, so far, they have donated 75 twin beds and 26 cribs, according to their data.
“The objective is to just help as many kids as we can in the state,” Shufelt said. “We have families that drive from all over Arizona to come get the stuff that we’re giving out, so we’re servicing the entire state.”
Paul and Kathy Donaldson founded the organization after Kathy’s younger sister passed away after three years of fighting breast cancer.
“The day before she died, I asked her what I could do to keep her memory alive,” Kathy said. “She said one good deed a day, but don’t take credit for it.”
The Donaldson’s began what amounted to “doing good deeds” around Arizona, and eventually founded the organization in February 1998.
“We were helping people with anything they had that didn’t fit another non-profit,” Kathy said.
After focusing their efforts on one prevalent issue after witnessing the conflicts with Child Protective Services in 2013, they have been able to deepen the services they provide, according to Shufelt.
“I always used to joke about the fact that the legislatures down at the capital probably went to bed every night giving thanks to Mississippi because now we can be 49th in child welfare instead of 50th,” Shufelt said. “There’s still a misconception the community, and even with people you’d think would be knowledgeable of community affairs, that the state does everything for kids in foster care.”
With this in mind, they continue to grow and expand their organization efforts.
They now receive thousands of palettes filled with donations monthly from different organizations, and also schedule four volunteer activities weekly as opposed to their four activities annually in the past, according to Shufelt.
Shufelt said he hopes to hire more employees and purchase more space in order to reach more foster families across the state.
“To be able to help out people like that has been a privilege,” Shufelt said. “It’s a joyful thing around here… I love what happens around here and I know that we’re helping families every day.”