For Amanda Merler, Vancouver-based Associate Manager of Volunteer Services with Covenant House, work is about more than personal growth. An eager community development member working with Covenant House for just over five years, Amanda has had the opportunity to not only connect with volunteers and staff, but make connections in the community and serve a great cause. Covenant House B.C. provides a sanctuary and offers the opportunity for a brighter future for more than 1,400 street-involved youth each year. Their mission to “provide love and hope to Vancouver’s street youth” embodies precisely what Covenant House is all about. “We help youth aged 16-24 who have fled physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, those who have been forced from their homes or those who have aged out of foster care,” says Amanda. Compassionate, supporting, and caring people like Amanda are committed to making a genuine effort to create change and provide help to the young people who come to Covenant House.
We met up with Amanda during the Covenant House Christmas Backpack program, and although it was late in the evening and she had been helping volunteers sort and organize donations for hours, she looked fresh-faced and ready to take on the world; she is in her element. “I always felt that my skill set and personality was suitable for helping others,” says Amanda. “I was very lucky to find a career that allows me to fill an organization’s needs with eager community members and volunteers.” She understands the needs and concerns of the community and is committed to making this a priority. She’s perfectly in step with how her own personal values and goals can contribute to the greater good of others as well. “I find my job similar to a puzzle; I am always looking for more puzzle pieces [volunteers] to make the perfect picture,” Amanda emphasizes.
The Christmas Backpack Program is one of Covenant House’s many outreach programs, aimed at spreading love to youth in need during the holiday season. Each year, Covenant House and Coordinators like Amanda organize and create 275 backpacks for their Drop-in Center, Crisis Program, and Rights of Passage Program. Inside the backpacks are brand new socks, underwear, t-shirts, toiletries, gift cards, and some Christmas treats like chocolate bars to give as gifts to the youth. “For the majority of our youth, this is the only present they will receive during the holidays,” says Amanda. “Donors and volunteers play a huge role in this program.” All the items and money used for this campaign are raised through individuals, companies, and different community groups. Volunteers help with prep and assembly during this process. “This year we had over 165 volunteers in to support the program, which was a huge asset to our organization,” Amanda beams. All of these programs are strategically designed to lift youth out of the cycle of poverty and homelessness and provide opportunity for youth to overcome obstacles and get back on their feet with the tools they need to sustain healthy independence as adults.
Amanda is always looking for new opportunities to give back and inspire others to do the same with a smile on her face and a positive attitude. Covenant House is constantly expanding and looking for support, whether it be donations, clothing, time, or financial contributions. “My goal is to stay ahead with my volunteer intake to ensure the needs of our programs are always met,” she explains. Amanda is one of many genuine people who work hard behind the scenes in helping street-involved youth improve their lives and to create brighter futures. “It’s great to be able to witness this type of volunteerism first hand,” says Amanda. In terms of future endeavours, Amanda’s goal is to continue to develop skills and managerial qualifications in the industry in order to eventually move into a Human Resources role, which we have no doubt she will someday achieve and perform exceptionally.
As the busy holiday season has now wrapped up, Covenant House will begin the Thank-a-Thon Program on February 1st. The Thank-a-Thon is a set of fun-filled evenings where volunteers get together and call Covenant House donors just to say “thank you”. Because it is a primarily privately funded organization, it is important to give thanks to each donor and reach out to them personally for the difference they make in young peoples’ lives. If you would like to volunteer or learn more about these volunteer opportunities, please visit the website here. For more information on how to get involved feel free to email Amanda at [email protected].