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Lending a HELPing Hand

October 20, 2011

Last month, United Way bid farewell to three fantastic AmeriCorps VISTA members who had each completed two terms of service.  Last month you met Rebekah, a Nevada native who served at the American Red Cross.  However, not all our service members are local.  In fact, many of them come from the opposite side of the country…

Before she began her VISTA experience, Meagan Ho Ching was an eighteen-year-old full-time college student living and working in Boston, Massachusetts. She had spent summers with her extended family in Las Vegas for as long as she could remember, so when it came time to “find herself” she couldn’t think of a better place to do it. “A dear friend of mine suggested HELP of Southern Nevada as a site to apply to. As soon as I read their mission statement and researched some of their work in the community, I knew I wanted to be a part of such an amazing organization,” Meagan said.

Each holiday season HELP of Southern Nevada provides over 1,200 Thanksgiving meal baskets, adopts out 400 families, and supplies over 13,000 children with toys. The past two years Meagan took on the responsibility of raising turkeys and other Thanksgiving dinner staples for the meal baskets. “It was the most heart-touching thing to see local businesses, organizations, schools, and families band together and give, especially in an economy that would suggest otherwise.”

Meagan was able to organize over 100 food drives around the city. She saw elementary school children pool their allowances and offices give up coffee for a month just to donate a turkey, then watched as families, local leaders, volunteers, and HELP staff members all stood shoulder to shoulder sorting, packaging, and lifting the precious baskets. “The long hours all paid off with the first thank you from the first mother that came to retrieve her family’s turkey.”  Meagan personally took in all the vouchers for the baskets and saw firsthand the gratitude of over 1,200 families. She calls it indescribable: “We live in a remarkable community that when all odds are against us we seem to come out, not necessarily unscathed, but stronger and closer.”

The proud Nevadan recently relocated to Chelsea, Massachusetts and will be finishing her Liberal Arts degree with Harvard University Extension School. “I cannot explain how much my two-year tenure with VISTA has changed my life,” she said. “I left Massachusetts defeated and timid. I return a confident young professional. My VISTA experience shaped me into an individual that is more passionate and driven, but more importantly, involved.”

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