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Truck Mural: Design Contest

truck contest

Seeking Artists to Design Our New Truck!

Thanks to a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, WTAP has a new truck. For now, it is still stark white… we need YOU to help us change that!

Interested artists please submit a design:

  • The design should be 8 feet by 16 feet for both sides of 8’x16′ box truck
  • There should be a different design for each side
  • A mural design must not have any shading or blending
  • Can be projected and traced onto truck
  • Can be filled in by volunteers

March 1-20: Idea submissions accepted:
Email to info@wtap.org with “truck mural” in subject line

March 21- Apr 4: Vote on finalists on social media
Design chosen and prize awarded


Volunteer Spotlight: Nina Melic

Nina Melic: Volunteer, Board Member

10801735_10205074368596211_8300777266501353985_n (1)How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?
I have been volunteering only since August 2015. I was looking for a
new job on LinkedIn and came across the WTAP page. I sent Collin an email and the rest is history.
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
Besides having the honor of meeting the wonderful people involved in planning the Fundraiser Breakfast in October, I have had the pleasure to meet all the student volunteers that put the time and effort in helping us organize and host the WTAP Breakfast at Scottsdale Community College.
Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP? Volunteering is good for the soul. I have been looking for the right organization for a while now but nothing really seemed to be calling my name. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of organizations and causes to be involved but they just weren’t for me. WTAP seemed appropriate. Being a former refugee myself, I can relate to what people go through and the challenges they face of starting over.
Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.
That realization came when we had a room full of people attending the WTAP Fundraiser Breakfast. With everything that’s going on today and the bias influence media has on people made me realize that what WTAP does is very important not only helping those resettled in Arizona but educating the public as well. It also made me realize that people want to help whether it is with their time, financially or spreading the awareness.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I work full time as a Catering Manager. My free time is spent hiking and exploring Arizona trails. I enjoy spending time with friends and family.
What secret powers or talents do you have?
Yikes, I don’t think any of my talents are secret and definitely no powers here. Not sure if it’s a talent but I am a very adaptive person. I adapt to changes very easily and that’s helped me in the past and has shaped who I am today.

Volunteer Spotlight: Quteiba Al-Timeemy

Quteiba “Q” Al-Timeemy: Communications Committee Intern

How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?IMG_1569
I’ve been a volunteer for almost 4 months now. I started with WTAP as a service learning project for school but I’ve grown very attached to WTAP’s vision and mission, so I decided to stay on board. 
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
Everyone I’ve met at WTAP is so extraordinary. The amount of compassion the volunteers have cannot be measured with words. I refuged from Iraq to America in the mid 90’s so I know how scary it is to be a refugee. To find so many who care about the position that people like my family and I were in is beyond amazing. 
Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
At first, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started my school project with WTAP, but after a few days and speaking to some of the volunteers, it was clear that I wanted to be here. It’s incredibly difficult to know what a refugee goes through, even for me being a refugee, my story to me seems to be unreal. That first time I did a delivery and spoke to a Iraqi refugee and saw how happy they were even after everything they went through, I knew I was at the right place. 
Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference. 
The first delivery I did was truly exceptional. Not just the part where we delivered everything they needed, or set it up to their liking, but to actually take time to speak to them and get to know them. It’s hard to find people that are truly interested in lives of total strangers but the amount of compassion and support that the volunteers showed on that day and gratitude that refugees displayed really showed I was at the right place. 
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I am a prelaw student and work full time so I tend to stay busy. If I find any free time I’m usually working out or hiking or playing a pick up soccer or basketball game. 
What secret powers or talents do you have?
My secret powers include flying and having a mystery solving intuition but that’s a secret, so shhhhh. Not much of a secret power though is honestly just trying to make people smile. I think a smile is contagious so I try my best to spread it.

Volunteer Spotlight: Lauren Abraham

Lauren Abraham: Communications Committee Intern

Lauren AbrahamHow long have you been volunteering with WTAP?
I started volunteering with WTAP in October, so it bas been about a month now.

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
While working with WTAP, I have had the privilege of meeting the members of the Communications Committee. It has been fascinating to see the behind-the-scenes workings of the organization, and getting to know the individuals who take on different roles to make everything run smoothly. In addition, it has been inspiring to see the passion these individuals have for helping refugees feel welcome coming to America.

Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
I am a social media intern for WTAP. I find information that sheds a positive light on refugees coming to America, and post on the organization’s Facebook and Twitter pages. This has been a great experience, because I have been able use and apply my knowledge of social media, as well as learn information about refugees and their stories. I have enjoyed reading inspiring stories about refugees who have found success because of their hard work, despite the hardships they have had to overcome.

Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.  
I have not yet helped with a delivery, but through helping the organization with their social media, I feel I have made a difference. I think finding and sharing stories about refugees gives them a voice that they may not otherwise have. I believe refugees deserve to be recognized for their hard work and the challenges they have overcome.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I am currently a student at Grand Canyon University, and I live on campus. While I am not volunteering, I am busy with schoolwork and other various activities I am involved in, such as being part of the National Communication Honors Society. I am also busy planning for a mission trip I will be going on in the spring to the Navajo reservation. In my free time, I enjoy relaxing and spending time with my family and friends.

What secret powers or talents do you have?
I would not say I have any secret powers (although I wish I did), but one of my talents is that I love to write. This is something I have been passionate about since I was very young, and I hope to incorporate it into my career one day.

Volunteer Spotlight: Deborah Richardson

Deborah Richardson: Super Volunteer
How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?Dec 2014 head shot
I have been volunteering with WTAP for 2 years.  I didn’t know anything about WTAP until my son, Aaron, age 19 at the time, expressed an interest in doing some volunteer work with refugees due to experiences he had while traveling abroad during his previous semester of college.  He had the opportunity to be a part of Semester At Sea which is basically a floating classroom with professors from all over the world and a variety of class offerings. Aaron had traveled to numerous countries including India, Burma, Ghana, South Africa, Vietnam and Morocco.  Through this program, he was exposed to an international perspective that ignited an interest in him to pursue a career with a humanitarian focus. When he came home for his summer break we discovered WTAP and asked if I wanted to do this with him.   We started with deliveries and we were both amazed at how much meeting each of the families and learning their stories touched our hearts.  We continued over the summer and when he returned to school, I continued volunteering.  I remained involved in some deliveries but began working with the Clothes Closet and now I have incorporated Home Visits.  I really love it.
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
The thing that strikes me the most when I meet the refugee families is how resilient and strong they all are.  It keeps me grounded and reminds me that while I might think I have problems or things to worry about, I don’t have the first clue about the struggles, hardships and life-threatening situations each of these families has lived through and many of them for years on end.  Being a mom, I tend to be very empathetic to the mother in the family and her desire to protect her family and hold them together as best she can.  Every time I have the opportunity to meet refugees, I walk away with ten times more than I contributed.  I am also very impressed with the volunteers that come back time after time and move heavy furniture to second and third floor apartments in extreme heat!  Now that’s impressive and dedicated!
Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
The reason I choose to donate time to WTAP is I believe I make a difference in someone’s life in a positive way.  When I go into someone’s home and smile, showing caring and concern and take time to listen, you can really see how much impact it has on the families.  As I said before, I see families that have horrendous stories to tell.  Yet here they are continuing to put one foot in front of the other.  That warms my heart so much.  And if I can make that journey just a bit easier, more comfortable and let them know somebody cares, it’s all worth it.  I’m really the one who benefits the most I think when it comes right down to it.  I give just a little bit of time and effort and get so much in return.
Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference. 
I could tell so many stories here!  Just this past weekend, I had the privilege of delivering items to 3 families I had done the home visits for.  This was especially powerful for me because I had met them 10 days earlier, heard their stories, listened to them describe their needs and saw, first-hand, how little they had.  One of the families from Cuba literally had basically an empty apartment.  They had nothing.  So when we delivered a couch, tables, dishes, utensils, book shelves, a TV, desk, chairs, etc. they really thought they had made it to Heaven.  They were not able to show their appreciation enough.  So to see it all come together and to help these families go from an apartment they take shelter in to a home is remarkable to say the least.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering ?
When I am not volunteering, I am always first a mom even though both of my children are not living at home.  My daughter, Abby, age 25, lives in Taiwan and teaches English.  My son, Aaron, whom I credit for getting me started with WTAP, is senior at Concordia University in Portland, OR.  So now it’s just my husband and I and our beloved beagle, Jeter.  I am also a Registered Dietitian and have a private practice that serves people of all ages who need some sort of nutritional intervention from an eating disorder to diabetes to heart disease or just need to adopt a healthier lifestyle.  I enjoy hiking, traveling with my husband and/or family, going to sporting events, photography and I love exploring all types of restaurants and foods so I “drag” my husband along to experience that with me.
What secret powers or talents do you have?
It’s always hard to describe yourself it seems.  I would say I have a great deal of compassion for people and that I am very resourceful and able to figure out how to accomplish whatever it is I set out to do.  So maybe my motto should be, “If there’s a will there’s a way”?  I think these are two important characteristics that help me in volunteering for WTAP.  I care about the families and their struggles and definitely want to find a way to help them make their lives just a little easier than before I met them. 


Volunteer Spotlight: Kelly Snider

Kelly Snider: Super Volunteer

KellySniderHow long have you been volunteering with WTAP?
I started volunteering in 2007 with my two children. We loved the diversity of every delivery we helped out with. I have been a part of deliveries, the Clothes Closet and Adopt a Family (holiday event).

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
While we have short interactions with those receiving our donations, the volunteers that I have met over the years, remind me of the goodness and kindness of others. I appreciate meeting new volunteers, and am always delighted to see returning faces on deliveries and at the Clothes Closets.

Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP? At this point, I can’t imagine not volunteering with WTAP. I leave deliveries feeling so fortunate. Fortunate to have connected with other great volunteers, and fortunate to connect with refugee families who are so grateful for our assistance.

Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.
Truly, each delivery, Clothes Closet event, Adopt a Family event, I hope to make a difference for the volunteers and those who are receiving our services. When refugee families find that their apartments feel more like home, when small children find clothing that fits, and when a refugee father said Thank You for all of the gifts he received for his children during our Adopt a Family event – that fills my heart. Seeing volunteers cleaning kitchens, playing soccer with children, making beds, finding a cool Sponge Bob shirt for that 6 year old little boy – reminds me why I get up on Saturday’s and do what we do!

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I am lucky to work with a great consulting organization, we design, develop and facilitate training programs for large corporations. When I am in the office, I am a project manager and when I am out at client site, I am facilitating training events.

What secret powers or talents do you have?
Unfortunately no secret powers! I enjoy cooking, reading, hiking, entertaining and being with my family.

Volunteer Spotlight: Carly Fleege

Carly Fleege: Communications Committee Member

30499_915279325831_10024212_52424277_1651874_nHow long have you been volunteering with WTAP?I’ve been volunteering with WTAP since 2008.

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
I’ve met selfless, incredible, and dedicated volunteers; and I’ve met refugees who have endured the unimaginable.  Those connections, however brief, are invaluable and immeasurable.
Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
My heart has attached itself to WTAP’s mission of creating community connections and building bridges of neighborly understanding.  I think we can all relate to the desire to belong, feel connected to others, and have a place to call home.  As humans, we all have an instinctive desire to ensure our children and loved ones have access to life’s basic necessities and the freedom to pursue our greatest hopes and dreams.  Some of us may take for granted the comparative safety, security, and freedom we enjoy in the United States, but those things have been violently ripped away from those who bear the refugee status.  Refugees belong nowhere and to no one.  But WTAP provides an opportunity to welcome the world’s homeless in a loving, profound way.  We get to say, “You’re home, you’re loved, you belong, and now you can live a life of endless possibilities.  Don’t lose hope, your journey may not be over but you’ve come so far.  You’ve endured what we cannot begin to imagine but despite those obstacles, your strength, courage, and perseverance has gotten you here and will see you the rest of the way. Let us, your community and neighbors, help build a foundation for you to begin the next part of your journey.”
Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.
There isn’t a singular, defining experience that I’ve had with WTAP that made me realize I was making a difference.  Perhaps that’s because WTAP, as a whole, makes the difference.  As the old adage says, “it takes a village.”
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?  
If I’m not volunteering, I’m either working or spending time with my husband and two adorable rescue pups (adopt, don’t shop!).
What secret powers or talents do you have?
My secret power is probably neither a secret nor a power but a defining characteristic that fuels and drives me.  Those characteristics are empathy and love.

The Flaming Vacuum!

The Flaming Vacuum is a funny story we want to share from one of Susie’s Goodwill Adventures:

I go to Goodwill every Thursday for Dollar Day (they know me well). My motivation is to find useful items I then donate to the Welcome to America Project. One item that is asked for by most families is a vacuum cleaner and I have been very lucky to find many $1 vacuums. Rule of thumb:  you must always plug them in! Although they may not “suck” very well, if the motor is running smoothly, I can take it apart and fix the “no suck” issue. Lo and behold, one Thursday I found a very nice looking Hoover. I snagged it and took my place in line at the test desk. A very nice lady behind me was waiting to test a lamp. I, of course was bragging about how I can fix these ol’ vacuums etc., and all about my WTAP cause. The lamp lady was lapping it all up. I was the “Mother Teresa” of the Goodwill! I plugged that vacuum in and within a millasecond it made a very odd screeching sound and burst into flames! The lady behind me shrieked “FIRE!” and the Goodwill guys came running. I just pulled the whole electrical strip out of the wall, keeping my hero status in tack. Well, the guys would not let me take the Hoover, insisting that it was unfixable (yes I asked). Sorry WTAP. Everyone walking in to Goodwill asked “what is that smell? Is something on fire?” I loved the way the staff explained that I was getting a vacuum for WTAP and it caught fire. Great publicity!

No vacuum this week, but I did find a girl’s bike, 3 table cloths, 3 sets of sheets, a blanket, bread maker, 3 new-with-tags book bags, and some towels, all for $20!! All of these essential items will be delivered by our wonderful volunteers to the households of newly resettled refugees. It’s a small gesture, but we hope it will make our new neighbors feel welcomed into our communities as they begin the next chapter of the their lives in Phoenix.

Susie Wilkin is a WTAP super-volunteer, Board Member, and dedicated Packer for our Saturday deliveries. Using her own funds, Susie also frequents her local Goodwill on Dollar Days to supplement the donations we receive. She’s always on the hunt for high need items such as vacuums, rice cookers, bikes, and towels.

Volunteer Spotlight: Julia Thorn

Julia Thorn: Volunteer, Board Member

How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?me
I have been volunteering with WTAP since 2008.  I was introduced to WTAP when I was Director of Marketing Communications at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa.  We were renovating a wing of the resort and were looking for a local organization to donate the used furniture and décor. Our only stipulation was they had to go to families in our local community and the organization had to be able to pick up the items and store them. I called Carolyn Manning and the rest is history.

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
I have met so many wonderful refugee families.  I feel so fortunate to have met them.  A few that come to mind are two Burundian refugees,  Venant and Alexis.  They have the sweetest families and such sweet spirits.  Venant and I represented WTAP last year when a dignitary came to town.  Others that I have been moved by were a brother and 2 sisters from Iran.  He had been working with our government and they had to flee.  But before they did, one of his sisters who worked as a flight attendant was in an area that was bombed and got shrapnel in her face.  She was going to have surgery to repair her wounds. The brother volunteered as an interpreter for us on home visits.

Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
Mostly because I am awed by the refugees.  They are resilient individuals who have survived so much and taught me about the strength of the human spirit.  This charity is such a worthwhile organization and  you can see the positive impact immediately.  As a Christian I am called to help those less fortunate. I don’t have to go across the world on mission trips – I am doing good work right here in my own backyard.

Describe an experience you had while volunteering that you realize you were making a difference.
I was doing home visits and met a single lady with a son from Iraq.  She was handicapped and had been excommunicated from her family because her husband left her.  Even though we didn’t speak on another’s language I understood she needed a tea pot, blanket and some clothes.  I immediately drove home and got my tea pot and a blanket, stop at store and bought her a few items and drove back to her house.  She was so grateful.  It was just a few things that changed her world and mine.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I have done most of the volunteer opportunities at one time or another.  From home visits, to deliveries, donation drives to speaking engagements.  I have chaired the Adopt a Family 3 years and coordinated several Cultural dinners over the years – Burundi, Iraq and Cuban.

Welcomes, Deliveries, and New Friendships!

Anytime I have the opportunity, I tell people about the Welcome to America project and what a unique, Dinner2family-friendly volunteer opportunity they offer through their “deliveries.” I have been spending time with refugees in Arizona for more than 10 years–as a volunteer, a sponsor, a teacher and a friend–and these have been some of the richest experiences of my life. I have been privileged to visit and work on six continents but have never learned or grown as much as I have through relationships with foreign-born people in my own city! What a treasure.

A few weeks ago, some friends and I went on a Saturday-morning delivery with WTAP. I had only done this once before and was excited to go again, though I didn’t look forward to saying “goodbye” after delivering the items. One thing I have learned over and over in the past 10 years is that even beyond the physical furnishings and comforts, what newly arrived refugees really need and crave are trusted friends who will walk with them through those difficult, often lonely first several months.

After we put the final touches on the last apartment that Saturday–trying to hang wall art perfectly, unwrapping a new lamp shade, carefully placing a clothes dresser in the parents’ bedroom–we chatted with the Iraqi family and smiled, shook hands, said goodbye and began to walk out to our cars. In each of these deliveries, to me, there is always a sense that both the refugee families and the delivery volunteers would like to know more about each other, but the scene is just a little rushed or the awkwardness of communicating in two different languages becomes too much.

Wasan (the mother) and her two boys followed us out and stood there watching as we said goodbye to each other, piled back into our cars and drove away. I thought about how isolating it is to be in their shoes: newcomers in a strange land, kept inside their small apartment by the brutal summer heat, interested but unable to explore their new home without a trusted friend to show them how.

I had to find some friends for this family. Of course, the family would decide whether or not to keep these friends, but at least they could have some options and could receive more welcomes from more of their new neighbors. To get the family’s phone number, I contacted WTAP who gave me the name of the family’s resettlement agency. Since I already had a good relationship with the staff at the agency, they gave me the phone number, and we were off and running.

Martha and Mark are two very dear friends of mine who love to serve others and show hospitality. Martha sprung into action and invited the family over for dinner. The evening was filled with a lot of laughter, hugs, hand motions when we couldn’t understand each other, and full, satisfied bellies thanks to Martha’s good cooking. We lingered over the dinner table and took our time getting to know each other. Two weeks later, we met again at Martha and Mark’s home, this time feasting on fragrant, fresh Iraqi food prepared by Wasan and Naseer, her husband.

I will continue to encourage people of all ages to volunteer with WTAP and extend a warm welcome to our new neighbors from all over the world. I also encourage volunteers to go a step further and reach out to the people you meet during the delivery–open your home and invite someone new over for a meal! It takes very little effort but can go a long way in helping people make the difficult transition to life in America.