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Valley Students Spend Summer Volunteering and Spreading Humankindness to Local Homeless Community


Two hundred teenage volunteers held a backpack and toiletry drive at Dignity Health Chandler Regional and Mercy Gilbert Medical Centers to help the homeless.
This is the first time in the 11-year history of the hospitals’ “Volunteen Program” that the students have taken on a community service project in addition to their volunteer jobs. The goal is to fill 600 backpacks by their Volunteen graduation on August 2. The project is well on its way with 400 backpacks ready to be distributed to patients in the hospitals’ emergency rooms and Dignity Health Urgent Care Centers who are homeless.
 
“I am always impressed with our Volunteens’ dedication to the hospitals,” says Valerie Heninger, supervisor of volunteer services at Mercy Gilbert. “This service project really gave them another chance to see how impactful it is to help others. Their hard work and altruism is at the heart of everything we do at Dignity Health.” 
 
Dignity Health’s Volunteen Program requires applicants to have a minimum 3.5 GPA. Applicants also go through a rigorous screening process, which includes providing two letters of recommendation and two essays. Once the teens have been chosen as candidates, they must then go through a community panel interview before finally being admitted into the program. In addition to their commitment to completing 40 volunteer hours, the program also requires them to attend three education sessions provided by the hospital specifically for the teens.
 
These ambitious teens are not only making a difference in the lives of people at the hospital, but are also receiving valuable exposure to the medical field. Many of the teens in the program aspire to work in healthcare and volunteering in a hospital setting is an experience that will provide them with insight into the industry. 
 
“In the future, I hope to pursue a career as a cardiothoracic surgeon. I am very grateful that the Volunteen program allowed me to assist staff members and interact with patients to further enhance my knowledge about, and excitement towards, working in the medical field one day,” says Sophia Areneta, who has been volunteering at Mercy Gilbert for the past four summers. Areneta recently graduated from Basha High School and will start college at The University of Arizona this fall. 
 
On July 23, the Arizona Diamondbacks recognized Dignity Health’s Volunteens for their outstanding service work. Lindsay Charvet, Sophia Areneta, and Chase Klapperich, who all volunteer at Mercy Gilbert, were chosen to represent the program at the pre-game celebration.
 
—Mercy Gilbert—

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