When lock-down orders and social distancing requirements interrupted daily life in March, the Impact Frisco chapter of the Young Men’s Service League had to figure out how to keep their volunteers safe even as thousands more people needed their services.

Now the volunteer organization is entering the home-stretch of the 202o holiday season. Around 107 high school volunteers and their mothers worked for 3,000 hours since May on various projects in North Texas, the organization’s leaders say.

More than 200 volunteers—96 mothers and their 107 teenaged sons—had to make tough decisions on how to continue serving during a pandemic.

“There’s more need than ever now,” says Eve Watson, Impact Frisco’s vice president of communications. “It’s been a fine line to walk.”

Sam Doering, Carson Guest and Paige Wenaas working at Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child in 2019.

At first, the organization canceled dozens of volunteer opportunities. They joined the thousands of groups and companies who switched to virtual-only meetings. Some members chose to step away from the organization earlier in the spring but later re-joined the group.

“We pretty much had to cancel the rest of the year,” Watson says. “We just were not prepared on how to make it work.”

By May, volunteer events were back on Impact Frisco’s schedule. But it started off slow, Watson points out. She adds that their philanthropy team were able to find opportunities that could be served virtually.

One of three YMSL chapters in Frisco, Impact Frisco is made up of high school boys and their mothers. Over the four years of high school, the volunteers work through various roles within the organization and also serve local philanthropies.

Among those groups are Meals On Wheels, the Miracle League of Frisco, Lovepacs and Samaritan’s Purse. Fear of exposure to COVID-19 fundamentally altered how the Impact Frisco volunteers serve these and other groups. 

Impact Frisco volunteers Amy Guest, Paige Wenaas, Tara Doering, Sam Wenaas, Carson Guest and Sam Doering pose for a photo at Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child processing center in Coppell in 2019.

Before coronavirus, volunteers delivered and set up furniture for BedStart, an organization that donates furniture to people transitioning out of foster care or people who were formerly homeless and are moving into housing. Now, the volunteers are only able to drop off furniture outside people’s homes, eliminating the face-to-face work they’re used to.

“Even that felt a little dicy,” Watson says.

In August, Impact Frisco volunteers packed school supplies into about 600 backpacks. Buckner International in Dallas donated the backpacks to students attending Dallas ISD schools. In a change from years past, the volunteers picked up the backpacks, took them to their homes to fill them with supplies and returned them to Buckner for distribution.

How Impact Frisco Is Working through COVID-19 to Meet Holiday Needs 6

Since Halloween, Impact Frisco has worked on various projects to help families in need of assistance celebrate the holidays. In mid-December, Impact Frisco members will volunteer for Lovepacs, a local organization that provides food-insecure children with food kits during the long holiday breaks from school.

Lovepacs’ Frisco co-lead Kristen Ellwood says about half of the families they are serving this holiday season did not need its services the year before. That means the demand for Lovepacs’ services are soaring even as volunteer groups are able to contribute less.

Lovepacs and other organizations have had to be extra creative this year. The boxes Lovepacs uses to deliver the food in are decorated in bright colors and encouraging notes. This year, volunteers must decorate the boxes at home and return them to Lovepacs.

“With COVID, we need the groups, we need the support,” Ellwood says. “Our need is not going away just because there are extra precautions.”

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney is a freelance journalist based in the Dallas area. His work has appeared in the Dallas Morning News, Dallas Observer, Denton Record-Chronicle, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and the Las Vegas...