Alaska Woman Finds True Happiness in Helping Homeless Youth Succeed

Daily Point of Light # 6352 Sep 19, 2018
Amy MacKenzie (left) on the Covenant House Alaska Portage Glacier cruise with one of her mentees./courtesy Covenant House Alaska

For the past three years, Amy Jones MacKenzie has volunteered at Covenant House Alaska, a nonprofit organization serving thousands of homeless, at-risk and trafficked youth aged 13-24 in Alaska. As a volunteer mentor, she creates close relationships with young adults experiencing homelessness, and provides them with the stability, friendship, guidance and love that they need to transition out of homelessness and succeed in life.

When not working with her mentees, she spends many evenings planning, buying ingredients and cooking dinner with other youth in the transitional living program. As a lover of nature and outdoor activities, Amy has introduced new activities including rowing and hiking to the young adults and inspires them to be the best person that they can be.

Amy wears many hats and steps in wherever she is needed whether it is helping out in the kitchen, organizing special events or donating. She is today’s Daily Point of Light award honoree and Points of Light spoke to Amy to learn more about her work with Covenant House Alaska.

What inspires you to volunteer?

We have a large homeless population in Anchorage. I’m always incredibly sad when I drive by people panhandling or go by the many homeless camps along the trails. I also feel helpless and angry about what seems to be a problem without any real solution. I learned about Covenant House Alaska when I started working at BP. I figured if there’s any way to end homelessness, it’s going to be focused on helping young people get a good start with “adulting” so that they have the support to learn skills and coping mechanisms to succeed. I enjoy being around the energy and excitement of youth. I was a “big sister” with Big Brother Big Sisters from 2006 to 2013 when my “little” graduated high school. (She just graduated from college with a 4.0 GPA and moved to Japan to teach English!) I was missing the connection with a young person and decided to look into volunteer opportunities with Covenant House Alaska back in 2015.

Amy MacKenzie (right) at a fundraising event with her first mentee./Courtesy Amy MacKenzie

Describe your volunteer role.

I’m a mentor to a young adult living in the transitional living program, Rights of Passage, at Covenant House Alaska. I’m a sounding board, cheerleader and friend.  So far I’ve had three mentees since I started in 2015. I also hang out with the kids in the program at least one Thursday per month, typically making dinner at Rights of Passage.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

The most rewarding thing about being a mentor is seeing the kids gain confidence in themselves and start to have faith that they can succeed. 

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

Unconditional love is always the answer.  Being nonjudgmental in difficult situations and just letting any negativity I observe pass by without reaction is something I’ve learned as a volunteer but it serves me well anywhere.

Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?

I’m excited about a program we just started talking about at Rights of Passage that encourages travel and outdoor adventures—two interests near and dear to me.

Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?  

Someone once told me “We’re not here for ourselves. We’re here for others.” When you look at how much happier you are when you’re making someone else happy versus when you’re focused on your own self, I think that’s true. 

What do you want people to learn from your story?

The key to personal happiness is finding a way to be of service to others.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Amy MacKenzie? Visit All For Good for local volunteer opportunities.

 

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