More Than a Decade of Dedication to Tempe’s Threadz Program

Daily Point of Light # 7826 Jun 4, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Kathy Stevens. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

In the high school halls of Tempe, Arizona, Kathy Stevens has become synonymous with selfless service and community commitment through her longstanding involvement with the Threadz program. Since its inception in 2009, Kathy has been at the forefront of this pivotal initiative, which aims to ensure that all students have the resources they need to attend and graduate from high school.

Kathy led the creation of Threadz, a program that operates out of a local high school and provides students with clothing, school supplies and hygiene items at no cost. Her leadership over the decade-plus has not only helped sustain the program but also expanded its reach and impact. Kathy’s dedication is evident in her more than 1,000 hours of volunteer service, contributing significantly to the program’s success and efficiency.

Often volunteering for the less glamorous but essential tasks, Kathy is known for her willingness to sort through hundreds of bags of donations and work late-hour shifts. Her commitment ensures that the operations of Threadz run smoothly and effectively. The demand for Threadz’s services continues to grow, with the program supporting 3,440 student visits and providing 12,895 items at no cost since the beginning of the school year.

Kathy’s efforts extend beyond the day-to-day operations. She also engages with the community at local events to accept donations and raise awareness about the program. This outreach is crucial for maintaining and expanding the support Threadz receives, ensuring that it can continue to meet the increasing needs of students.

Read on to find out more about Kathy’s passion for Threadz, particularly in her favorite volunteer act: getting to know the students.

Kathy believes in the students she works with and loves to get to know them. She finds conversations with the students are often the most fulfilling parts of her volunteer work!

Tell us about your volunteer role.

I work as a volunteer at Threadz, which is located at Tempe High School. A classroom has been converted as a shop where students can come and select from donated clothing, new hygiene items and new school supplies. I work every Thursday afternoon during the school year to assist the students with their selections. We also keep a log of how many students visit each day and the number of items they select. This information is needed when the administrators of the program are writing for grants to support the program.

We sort through all of the donations and select the ones that we feel our students would like to wear. We arrange the room to look like a shop and spend time going through the racks and keeping the inventory updated. It is important to us that students feel the items they are choosing are items they would choose if they were purchasing them. We do not ask them to show any proof of need. We want Threadz to be a place where all of the students want to visit.

Why is this issue so important to you?

I know how important it is for high-school aged kids to feel like they can be accepted. The clothing they wear, the backpacks they carry and their personal hygiene all contribute to their sense of fitting in. High school can be a tough time, and anything I can do to help is important to me. Through the year we get to know the students and many of them stop in just to say hello or to offer to help. I enjoy getting to know them and hearing how they are doing.

What inspired you to get started with this initiative?

I was asked to volunteer to help set up the first Threadz location. We painted walls, put up clothing racks and sorted through bags and bags of clothing. After that I was hooked. I have volunteered at two of the sites over the years and it is still one of my favorite volunteer activities.

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

When we meet a student who truly needs some help. We see survivors of domestic abuse who have to leave their homes with no clothes except what they are wearing. We have students who need P.E. clothes and don’t have the money to purchase them. We have families come in with several children and they are so appreciative when we can offer them what they need to start the school year. We often have students looking for an appropriate outfit for a job interview.

And just the fun times we have with the kids. Picking out outfits for a play or a dress for the dance, or a group of kids who need the same color shirt for some special presentation. We often meet those making donations and have the chance to tell them how much we appreciate their support.

What have you learned through your experience as a volunteer?

It doesn’t take a great deal of time to make a difference to someone who needs some extra help. Just a few hours a week can result in a positive impact in the community. Sometimes the items of clothing we provide, or the bottle of shampoo isn’t the most important thing we give to our students. Sometimes just listening to them tell you about their latest exam, or the argument they had with a friend, is why we need to be there. I am continually impressed with the students we work with. They are smart, funny, kind and full of promise.

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

The administrators of Threadz are always looking at ways to better publicize our locations and let all students know that they are welcome to stop in and shop. As we continue to let the community know of our work, we have an opportunity to increase donations and find future volunteers. I look forward to finding new opportunities in the school and in the community to let people know who we are and what we do. As an adult, I look forward to school starting in the fall so we can get back to work!

Why should others get involved with causes they care about?

Many of the volunteers I work with are retired, as I am. I have plenty of time to volunteer and like to think my experience and background can contribute to the success of the organizations I volunteer with. I like staying involved with the community and think my time spent with the younger generation helps me keep me young… at least young at heart. I feel like I get much more back from volunteering than I give.

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?

Find your passion. Any time spent working for things you care about is time well spent. Try different organizations or causes and decide what speaks to you. It doesn’t matter how much time you have to give. What seems like a small contribution to you can have a major impact on someone who needs some attention or kindness.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Kathy? Find local volunteer opportunities.


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