By Dawn M Chiossi
Reach out a helping hand, help someone in need. Everyone has heard of this expression and the sentiment. A helping hand is filled with compassion and caring, it offers encouragement, it steadies, and bolsters someone else. Everyone could use a helping hand at some time during their lifetime. It can do so much; a helping hand can even inspire.
This is what Helping Hands of Denville is all about. While there are many organizations out there that help others, Helping Hands of Denville is quite unique. This volunteer organization is run by Denville’s boys and girls, young people who want to make a difference in the lives of others.
This is a great way for people ages 11 and up to enjoy volunteering, seeing what they can do to make someone else’s world a better place. With varying numbers at any given time, (there were even 25 members at one point), Helping Hands of Denville does so much.
Originating in 2012, Helping Hands of Denville stemmed from the minds of Denville residents Gary Beumee and Thom Butler. In its beginnings, the club originated with eight 13-year-old boys. Since then the club has expanded, realizing that all young people have so much to offer others, and opened up to both boys and girls.
Ever concerned about creating positive and uplifting messages for children, Helping Hands of Denville was formed with the vision in mind for young people to embrace volunteerism, spreading good things around, and giving back to others, this worthwhile organization does even more. In addition to benefiting those who need it, it gives their members a sense of confidence, empowerment, and well-being, a sense of purpose and accomplishment, giving them a chance to practice altruism, meet new people, take on challenges, and most of all, have fun. For the members of this great organization, the benefits of volunteering will last a lifetime.
For both Beumee and Butler, volunteerism is something they aspire to do every day. Both men and their families are no strangers to helping out others. Throughout the years they have both been involved in various worthwhile organizations, enthusiastically giving their time and energies to them. Beumee has been involved with the Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, coaching softball, baseball and basketball. In addition, he enjoyed participating in the Lakeview Talent Show and the Valleyview Players. Butler states he and his wife are quite active in the special need’s community because of their younger son.
Enhancing lives and inspiring others, Helping Hands of Denville was not only formed with the mission to empower members and help those in the community, the organization was formed with practicality in mind as well– allowing for a student’s busy schedule. “My eldest son was involved in scouts since a very young age, but when it came up to move into to Boy Scouts, the weekly meetings and monthly camping trips always competed with his sports activities which were a huge part of his life as well,” Beumee tells. “Looking for another outlet to volunteer and perhaps build some leadership skills, I came up with the idea of a service organization that the boys would run (with some mentoring by adults). There were a few other families whose sons were in a similar situation, so I approached them with this idea of creating a group run by the kids for the purposes of giving back. Everyone I spoke with thought it would be a great idea so we brought the boys together and we talked it though,” he enthuses. “Our first task was to come up with a name and we ended up choosing “Helping Hands of Denville.” We got a logo made, had some shirts printed, and then we were off!”
With no set meetings or formal gatherings, Helping Hands of Denville is an informal organization with a lot of heart.
“We mostly hear of things from word of mouth or from people we’ve helped,” Beumee says. “We’ll take on tasks as they come, and I’ll set up events on Facebook for people to see.”
They strive to get the word out to rally volunteers for this worthwhile cause, and Beumee even mentions that he even enlists the help of one of the middle school teachers at Valleyview. “She has been a big advocate of ours over the years distributing our contact information to her classes, encouraging them to volunteer for class credit.”
Loving the positive and uplifting mission and spirit of the organization, Helping Hands of Denville have aided in many various events and activities over the years. The common denominator is that they assist with whatever they can. Some of these great events and activities include the Rockaway River Clean Up, Rid Litter Day, yard clean up and maintenance (as well as snow removal) for the elderly in town, and helping people with their groceries. The Helping Hands of Denville additionally loaned their time, effort, and talents to the Riverview and Lakeview Fun Fairs, and they have been a regular partner in helping the Ayres/Knuth annual Christmas Tree sale for the last four to five years. They additionally assisted with the challenger soccer and baseball program where the kids volunteer as “buddies” with special needs athletes.
This is a cause close to Butler’s heart, and he credits the Helping Hands members for being the first to mentor the Challengers.
“I was coaching the special needs kids, and it was immediately obvious that the three coaches needed some help keeping them engaged,” he says. “Gary and I recruited the scouts– who were probably in 6th grade at the time–to help on the weekends and the mentorship project was born! Annually at least 70 to 80 different kids come out to help with challenger soccer and baseball, but the first kids were the Helping Hands boys. They really helped paved the way for the mentorship community here in Denville,” Butler enthuses.
No matter the activity or event that the Helping Hands organization engages in, the goal is always the same, to help, to make a difference, to make someone smile, and leave the world a little better than they found it. Feedback for this program has been overwhelmingly positive from the community.
“I think it has been a great experience for all: both who participate and for those that we help,” Beumee asserts. “I’ve developed relationships with some of the people we help out and they’ve shared just how thankful they are for us.”
it is easy to see that everyone is enjoying themselves and having a good time. Beumee even shares a funny story, demonstrating that as quaint as the idea of kids helping others may be in today’s times, people definitely respond to it, once their initial surprise wears off.
“A few years back we decided to have a few kids stand outside of the supermarket and just help people carry and load groceries into their cars. You’d be surprised just how many elderly or handicapped walk in and out of a supermarket all day,” he says. “Once people realized that we weren’t trying to sell anything, they gladly took assistance from us. One woman we helped made a point to drive by us as she left. She stopped the car, rolled down the window and yelled, ‘You’ve restored my faith in humanity!’ We were all cracking up and the kids thought it was awesome,” Beumee shares warmly.
He goes on to say, “The most memorable and moving events to me have been anytime we have been involved with the challenger programs. There’s no more uplifting experience than watching the faces of the kids when they are playing baseball or soccer with their new “buddies” who partner with them, laugh with them, and share normal kid time together. I would encourage anyone who is reading this to get involved. Come down to help out, or even to just watch and cheer. It means the world to these kids and there is no more uplifting experience than watching them smile and laugh. These are the times that volunteering really makes an impact,”
While Beumee has wonderful memories of the work they have done, he remarks that a major objective of the program is to have the kids run it. “When we would show up at a house to do work, I would pick two “leaders” for that day and it was their job to go ring the doorbell introduce themselves and ask the owner what they would like done or what they needed. In those early days some of the boys were shy or reluctant to talk to adults,” Beumee tells. “But I would walk to the door with them, push them ahead of me, and stand behind them for support. By the end of the day they would be eager to ring the door again and show off the group’s work with a huge sense of pride. The appreciation of the people we helped would bring these huge, humbling smiles to the boy’s faces. It was awesome. The sense of accomplishment and the feeling that they have just made a real difference in someone’s life made it all worthwhile.”