When we are young, there are few things more exciting than the prospect of running away from home (well, except maybe these). My own “great escape” was a true Goonies-inspired adventure, complete with enough Baby Ruths to sustain myself (plus one lovable antagonist) as we sailed into the sunset on an old pirate ship. No parents, no vegetables, and no chores. (Did I mention Baby Ruths?)
For most of us, this fantasy never makes it past the blanket-boundary line where we dream it up, huddled with friends and flashlights under impenetrable “forts” on the living room floor. The reality of childhood homelessness, however, is quite different from what any nine-year-old could possibly imagine.
Everyday, children from all walks of life face emergency situations that leave them without a caretaker, without basic provisions and without a home. That’s why Des Moines’ own Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS) is so vitally important.
“We are a shelter for children and infants through age seventeen,” says Jana Daisy, Community Activities Manager at YESS. “We provide a safe space for these children to learn and grow–through counseling, programming and education.”
Few nonprofits can hold a candle to one of this organization’s most successful fundraisers of the year, the YESS Duck Derby. Each spring, thousands of adopted rubber ducks “race” to the finish line across the water at Jordan Creek Town Center–the select winners receive $10,000 cash (1st place), a years supply of groceries at Dahl’s (2nd place), or a complete landscaping makeover by Ted Lare Design Build (3rd place). One lucky duck has the chance to win the grand prize of $1,000,000. Feeling fortuitous? Throw the dice.
Although YESS boasts over 1,000 volunteers annually, the Duck Derby alone adds around 250 helping hands to that number. For Jana Daisy, switching to a fully-automated volunteer registration process was a painless transition. “VolunteerLocal has been simply amazing,” she says. “I love that people can go on and see all the events, all the jobs and shifts themselves–they can sign up for what they want to do and what they’re available to do.”
As a crucial fundraiser for YESS, the Duck Derby must go off without a hitch each year. “We’re so thankful that the [VolunteerLocal’s] format is really easy to access and really easy to use. Our volunteers love it just as much as we do!”
YESS provides a safe and supportive environment for these children in need. It’s better than a pirate ship and candy bars–it’s the kindness of strangers, the power of community and the professional guidance of counselors. In short, it’s just a little piece of the magic that helps us to realize we’re all in this together. Want to help? Join the cause, feel the love.