Open letter and reflection by Jackie Kasinskas, Community Engagement Coordinator
July 9, 2022
I’d like to start off by saying thank you to the Hands On Hartford staff and volunteers. Your presence at Hands On Hartford is both a celebration of all of us and testament to the community that we have built together.
I was welcomed into the Hands On Hartford team during the height of the pandemic. We had no idea how long this was going to last or the severity of the situation. Our team showed up every day to provide support to the folks we serve. I remember feeling so grateful for having the opportunity to work at this non-profit making a difference during such a scary and unparalleled time.
I continue to be inspired by all the staff who are committed to keeping our doors open to serve our community in a safe, welcoming, and dignified way. When in conversations with people, they are always surprised that we have remained open through all of the pandemic surges. We have truly become the place folks could count on.
When I reflect upon the volunteers, I am grateful for both the motivation and commitment that they have shown in making a difference throughout this time. From packing grocery bags in the pantry to serving our daily meals, all while wearing masks and shields and adhering to the safety precautions. I was inspired by both our new volunteers and our seasoned volunteers who continued serving in our programs to ensure our neighbors were gaining access to the resources they needed.
Throughout all of the chaos, pivots, twists and turns, this team still made time to laugh and support one another. From Pauline’s and Debbie’s dance moves, to dressing up creatively for the Walk Against Hunger theme days, it’s the moments and conversations between the big events that really stand out in my mind. Those moments are what I’ll remember most. Remember when Avon Old Farms brought us thousands of toys for Toy Shoppe and Janet made the all-call on the intercom asking anyone to help move them? I was so grateful to have the staff and volunteers help bring the toys up bag by bag and jump in at a moment where we desperately needed the support.
At the most recent staff “breathing break,” Megyn invited us to think about stories; the stories we tell ourselves, the stories of those around us, the stories we live out in our daily lives. We each have our own stories based on the experiences of our lives. We impact each other and become a piece of one another’s stories.
You each have impacted me in many different ways. Your kindness, tenacity, and the love you put out in the world have continued to inspire me. Through conversations, I have learned bits and pieces of your stories. And now, Hands On Hartford and the community we have built have become a piece of each of our stories as well.
I feel so grateful that I have had the opportunity to work with all of you. I’ll leave you with this, don’t forget to compost! Thank you for being part of my story.