New Hope Academy: Organizing, volunteering & training. Win-win-win!


Liz Jenkins


A little while back, I got the bug to do some volunteer work. So I started thinking…hmmm….where would be a good place where I could use my skills, and help a good cause? So, of course, I threw it out on Facebook! Jennifer Beck, from New Hope Academy, a non-profit school here in my area that serves a low-income population, contacted me to let me know that they were struggling with a lunch room/storage room area. A space that the office staff and teachers all use to keep supplies and have their breaks. I thought – perfect! I used to be a teacher, it was near my house, and it sounded right up my alley.

Popped over to take a look and boy, did they need some help. Some attempts had been made but when you have so many busy people in and out of one space, it was hard to get any kind of system going. But I realized that it was a pretty big project so I started brainstorming on how I could get some help.  Got it! Why not invite ‘wanna-be’ organizers who needed some hands on experience in with me? Do some direct instruction and specific skill training, then let them have at it under my direction. It was more successful than I’d even imagined. I had a fantastic turnout – these women had great natural skills, worked together as a team and made this 2 day project go by like a breeze.

We started by scouting the spaces out, and doing a needs assessment with Jennifer and one of the staff members so we had the perspective of both groups of people who used the space. You can make a place as pretty and neat as you want but if you don’t know the needs and wants of those using it, the odds of it working out well are slim, in my humble opinion. Once we had a clear vision, we went to work. An entire vanload of stuff went to charity, and the rest was grouped according to use and type. We focused heavily on ease of access and on making sure everything was clearly labeled so when all the staff came back to work the next week – it was really clear what was what, and where everything belonged. We took special consideration of a couple of needs they had – we had a bit of a budget since each of us pitched in some funds so we were able to get some new shelving that was desperately needed, and create a communication system at the entry. We also relocated several items and created homes for them so they weren’t eyesores anymore.  Check out the slideshow I made (unfortunately my slideshow skills didn’t include my elaborate descriptions I so carefully made – oh well – but you get the idea!).

The best part is that the staff at New Hope were thrilled. And so was I. It was a win-win all the way around. They got organized, new organizers got training, I got to feel good about doing something for the community. Can’t beat that.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter I received from Jennifer on behalf of the school:

Dear Liz,

 A big thank you for getting New Hope Academy’s teacher workroom spaces organized!  The outcome is more than we could have imagined.  Teacher’s comments have been:

□     “Wow – these rooms look larger!”

□     “I love the new space!”

□     “I can find things now!”

□     “It’s amazing how much extra space we have!”

 Thank you for taking on New Hope Academy as a project, and organizing it as a training opportunity for other upcoming planners.  Your professionalism and innate knowledge of how to arrive at the end result are amazing.  You knew just what questions to ask when helping us sort and purge, which made it easy for us to get through that process.

 Your heart to help our school has made a big impact on our teaching staff and administration, which ultimately, has a positive impact on our students.