AZCEND, located at 345 S. California St. in Chandler, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing lives in the community. AZCEND serves clients through a number of programs, including a food bank, family resource center, early literacy education, homelessness lodging, job placement and training, senior centers, housing assistance and many more.
In AZCEND’s food bank, volunteer Betty Ingram has dedicated more than 1,000 hours of her time and made herself an invaluable resource to leadership and other volunteers.
She has made such an impact organizing, teaching and distributing in the food bank several days a week that Dara Gibson, the Development Director at AZCEND, nominated Betty for a Volunteer Recognition Award with the City of Chandler earlier this year.
“Without her there is no way we could distribute more than 12,000 food boxes last year,” Gibson said in her nomination. “Betty always gives the food bank manager the details of the day and what they will need for the next day. Many times Betty is the go-to person in the food bank when the manager has to take our truck to pick up our donations. We are forever thankful for her.”
Q&A with AZCEND Volunteer Betty Ingram
1. Describe your work with AZCEND. What types of volunteer work do you participate in on a regular basis?
The majority of my volunteering is with the food bank at AZCEND. They have many different programs, but I have been with the food bank for four years now. Lately, I have been working nearly every day due to COVID-19. One-time volunteers have dropped since the pandemic, so the regular volunteers have had to step up.
At the food bank, I often lead or teach new volunteers the ropes. Families receive food based on the size of their households, and it takes a number of us to help sort and distribute the food. I am personally responsible for evaluating the donations we get from various food drives. We ensure all donations are safe to distribute by checking for damage and expiration dates.
It is a lot of work to make a distribution happen in the AZCEND warehouse. That’s why I am always crying for more volunteers. The more volunteers we get to help us with the process, the more quickly it gets done. It’s a great way for people to get involved in the community that really makes a big difference.
Another area at AZCEND I'm involved with is the I-HELP program. I-HELP is an emergency and temporary housing solution for people experiencing homelessness. Various churches and facilities participate and house people for a night, serving hot meals for dinner and breakfast.
With that program, it is very rewarding to see people come in and out and to see them get back on their feet and eventually find work. I have a lot of good friends at AZCEND and have made great friends through working with these programs.
2. What drives you to volunteer? Why are you dedicated to helping people in Chandler?
It is very important that the work AZCEND does for the community becomes better known so more people can receive help through their services. They really do so much, and we can help so many more people if we spread the word.
When I first started volunteering, I was coming in one morning a month. It grew on me quickly, and I knew AZCEND was a special organization. It turned out to be more of a calling. I genuinely feel like AZCEND is where I was sent to go. Before volunteering, I worked at a CPA office for 28+ years. To get out and do something like this is so fulfilling. I get the opportunity to see a whole different side of the world and of humanity. Until you are face-to-face with the people who need help at any given moment, you never really know what makes them get there. I’ve gained so much empathy and so much understanding through this process.
3. Do you have any stories that stand out about the people you’ve helped you’d be willing to share?
There are always stories. Just seeing people who have been affected since COVID-19, I’ve seen some amazingly kind, resilient people. At the food bank, we serve people based on the size of their household. Lately the family base has been growing and we’ve been getting larger and larger numbers of people living in one place together. Households of seven or nine are common. I just recently had a household of 15 come in for supplies.
The other day I was running the carts and I took the food out to a house and helped the family unload it. I was talking to a woman who was living with a household of nine. She and her husband have two children themselves, and they also brought in two other families to live with them because the parents had lost their jobs and places to live.
It was so moving to see people bring families and friends together to support each other enough to help them get back on their feet. I can’t imagine doing that. That is really stepping up. It makes me wonder why I feel like I’m personally not able to do something like that. Stories like this happen all the time, but this is just one that stands out to me.
4. What types of services and resources do you wish were more available in our community to better help AZCEND and the people you serve?
I always ask for more volunteers. Like I said before, more volunteers makes everything go smoother and increases the impact we are able to make. I also would love to see AZCEND get more exposure for all of the incredible work they do. AZCEND is just this little building on California Street. It’s not out there for the world to see, but it’s an amazing place.
5. How does it feel to be recognized for the service you provide to the community?
I have gotten some awards and I always do appreciate it. But the truth is that the volunteers are not there for the awards. It is just nice knowing that one of your peers recognized you enough to nominate you for something. I think more volunteers need to be recognized. Most are not, and we could not do what we do without every one of them.
Chandler Volunteer Recognition Awards
Each year, the City of Chandler’s Diversity Office and For Our City-Chandler host the Chandler Volunteer Recognition Awards in honor of the tremendous impact and contributions volunteers bring to our community.
Faith-based groups, nonprofits, schools, businesses and any other group with volunteers were encouraged to nominate individuals for one of eight Chandler Volunteer Recognition Awards. This year, Betty was honored with a 1,000 Hours Award, honoring the amount of time she’s spent volunteering in Chandler.