We can never say it enough: Open Hand would not be here today without our volunteers. From our very earliest days where we operated with solely volunteers to today, where volunteers pack and deliver meals to our neighbors in need daily. Volunteers not only save us about $1 million yearly, allowing us to put those funds towards serving more Georgians in need, but are crucial to the community.
Many of those we serve deal with social isolation, which often spikes during the holiday season. Our volunteer drivers, who spend a couple hours with every shift in their own cars delivering meals straight to the doorsteps of those we serve, may be the only person our clients see that day. Their smile and those few moments they're able to spend together are invaluable, and can make just as much of an impact on our neighbors' quality of life as our meals.
That's why when Carvana reached out to us asking if we'd be interested in a partnership, we were honored to have the opportunity. As part of Haulerdays – their annual initiative to celebrate the holidays by doing good in the communities they work and live in – they wanted to donate a car to one of our volunteer delivery drivers! We randomly selected three of our volunteer delivery drivers and sent Carvana their names and some background information. After review, they decided to surprise all three of these incredible volunteers with a car!
“We’re donating three vehicles to volunteer drivers who, out of the goodness of their hearts, support others. They put extra wear and tear on their personal vehicles so we simply want to keep them going and support their do-good efforts,” said Emily Williams, a Senior Brand Activation Specialist at Carvana.
With the incredible opportunity to give back to three volunteers who have dedicated so much time to giving back to Open Hand, we're proud to say that Open Hand and Carvana pulled off the gift of a lifetime and successfully surprised all three volunteers with their car!
Meet the Volunteer Drivers
Twice a month, Claudia Walker and her daughter deliver food to Open Hand clients. “That’s what I do, what I live by. I love to brighten individuals’ days. Seeing them smile and knowing that it’s because I knocked on their door with their meals is so fulfilling,” she says.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Claudia was in the army for eight years, serving one tour in Iraq. Today, she’s out in the community frequently, working on establishing a mentoring program centered on helping high school students and volunteering. Her 12-year-old daughter regularly participates in Claudia’s volunteer efforts - she wanted to get her started early.
For Claudia, her experience volunteering with Open Hand has been tremendously rewarding. “You aren’t living until you volunteer with Open Hand. There are so many different things you can do to help! Not a people person? Pack meals. Love to be out and about? Deliver meals. People just need a smile to brighten their day… I’m never in a hurry. You never know how much they might need that connection - or how much you might need it,” she tells us.
When we told Claudia that we were giving her a car, she couldn’t have been more appreciative, displaying the characteristic good natured grace that’s made her such a star at Open Hand. “This is just mind-blowing… like, this doesn’t happen you know, I’m still like - this is a dream, this is a dream, but thank you. Thank you all for being a part of this moment… you all are family to me.”
Almost every week, David Williams drives over half an hour from his home to deliver meals for Open Hand. David’s been volunteering for almost a year with the organization, and in just that time, he’s made an impact on the lives of other Open Hand volunteers and his clients with his positivity and dedication to volunteering.
David likes to joke that volunteering for Open Hand is his “social media for seniors” – knocking on clients’ doors and delivering meals is his way to connect with the community. David moved to Atlanta from New York City almost 30 years ago, and his work volunteering with Open Hand has helped him find a new community to call home.
Since Open Hand’s origination in 1988 during the AIDS crisis, Steve Saunders has been working with the organization. Every Thursday, he delivers for Open Hand, and is always on-call as a backup driver if needed. Steve’s understanding that Open Hand provides more than just food – it offers connection and care – has helped him develop meaningful relationships with many Open Hand clients, often staying to talk or help clients warm up their meals after delivering them.
When we asked Steve what he would say to others who are considering volunteering, he had this to say: “Not only is there a need, but you feel the impact that giving your time has on people in need. I look at what impact I can have on the challenges we have in this world. Hunger is something we can do something about. We can all have an impact by working to eliminate hunger in our communities… I feed them and I get fed in a different way just by volunteering. It feeds my soul.”
All of our Carvana honorees have officially picked out and received their cars: take a look at their smiling faces below!
From left to right: Claudia, David, and Steve