This year's Christmas at Quest was a wonderful mix of Quest's past, present, and future; there were children present that Quest hasn't seen in a long time alongside the current crew. Santa sat front and center as the children gleefully awaited their turn to meet Santa and claim their present. Magical excitement filled the air as gifts were received. A wonderful time was had by all. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
The Quest children were in awe witnessing about 100 stuffed animals being carried in through Quest's doors. Both excited and shy, the kids watched as new faces came in bearing gifts. The new faces were Kyle and his mother who collaboratively gathered donations from their temple as well as from friends and family. The effort was part of a community service project from his temple which is named Temple Gates of Heaven.
Lions, tigers, and bears... and much more! The children took turns standing up to come and select the stuffed animal that was catching their eye. Kyle spoke about why he was there and how the feat was accomplished. Quest's kids - who are too often used to lose-lose scenarios - came head-on with a win-win as we were all filled with the good feelings so closely associated with giving and receiving. It was a magical day in the lives of the less fortunate.
Oftentimes at Quest, volunteers bring in activities for the children to participate in. This is just another one of those times! Given marshmallows and toothpicks, the kids constructed whatever their hearts desired. Some built houses, bridges, necklaces and more! At Quest we work hard to build the minds and hearts of the youth to enter our doors. Allowing their minds to creatively explore the process of building and designing is another way we are meeting needs that are often lacking in our community. What a fun and tasty way to build problem-solving skills!
We've recently ran into a great way for you and I to help donate to Quest (without spending any extra money!) If you ever shop on Amazon, this is for you: it's called Amazon Smile. The way it works is you would use Quest's Amazon Smile link. You would then purchase whatever you were going to purchase and Amazon donates 0.5% of your purchase price to Quest. Sure, it's a small amount, but it will add up quick! In my household, we use Amazon all the time. With all of us together, we can raise money for a wonderful, grassroots non-profit after school program just by doing what we already do.
Amazon Smile Link: https://smile.amazon.com/ch/13-3862213
Spread the word!!
Shout out to Trendy Tots - a modern children's consignment store out of Niskayuna, NY for bringing a fun Easter egg hunt to Quest!
The kids had an absolute blast. The main hunt had plenty of eggs for Quest's kids to fill up a significant portion of their paper bags. It was held outdoors in wonderful weather as laughter and sunshine filled Schenectady's skies. The children were thrilled to show the volunteer staff the eggs they had found!
After the main hunt came round two which was followed by some outdoor games such as red rover and simon says. There is no doubt that for two hours on this Sunday afternoon these kids ran, found, and laughed their way out of their poverty surroundings and into their childlike joy. We thank you again, Trendy Tots, for choosing Quest's kids!
Happy Easter everyone!
Can you imagine it? Fifteen inner-city kids at a Union College hockey game. As with anything we do, it started with a, "Will you donate?" and a "Sure." I will admit we were floored that Union's athletic department was so open and generous. "How many tickets do you want? 20? They'll be waiting for you!"
We had the privilege of watching Union stomp Dartmouth 4-1. The goal horn plus dancing lights made it a complete experience while the kids we brought were able to watch their local Schenectady team win. It was loud and fun.
I was personally amazed at the number of questions the kids had - yet again it's not that surprising when not one of them had ever been to a hockey game. Before I knew it, I was explaining what a penalty was, how many periods a hockey game had, how to get a point, why the players change so much, and were we on TV. One twelve-year-old boy in particular asked probably 50 questions alone. I felt like a hockey Wikipedia and was honored to fill the role.
Did they have fun? For the most part. Try attending a game you know nothing about and getting really into it. Some of the younger ones had to leave early because they were falling asleep while some of the older ones turned it into a social event - all expected. Being in a public place where you need to follow unwritten social rule X, Y, and Z is usually challenging. I hope we did not bother the folks next to us too much, but at the end of the day we are who we are.
I'm thrilled that these kids got to attend something new - something unusual. Taking them outside of their comfort zone to see that the world isn't all poverty and stress. It's these simple moments that bring us joy.
Of course, to Union College, thank you for saying "yes" to a brand new experience for Quest's kids. It was truly a delight!
Every year at Quest we receive a multitude of gifts to distribute from Toys for Tots to our local community and this year was no exception. Just about 50 children and their families walked through our doors into a room magically arranged for a joyous Christmas - a room where Quest's kids are used to playing kickball or hide-and-seek was piled high with Christmas gifts, festive lights, and Santa Claus himself amid the presents.
Instead of a sports game the children were greeted with a "Merry Christmas!" as these kids gleefully found a chair to sit in and await their turn with Santa to receive a gift of their choice. Shawn, a Quest volunteer, had the microphone and called children up by age group - first the youngest, next the middle, and finally the teenagers. Gifts ranged from infant crib toys to sports balls to barbie dolls to bluetooth speakers! It was great to see the children, one at a time, visit Santa and paruse the sea of gifts to find the one that was just right for them.
Executive director Judy Atchinson mentioned, "This was a night filled with magic and love." After receiving their gifts, the children went around showing their friends and families their newest toy. For an area overcome with poverty and depression, this was a time to be remembered for its joy and comradery for Schenectady's youth and their families.
Quest held its first annual yard sale Saturday, November 19th!
If you can imagine, Quest receives a lot of donated goods to distribute - being a grassroots after school program, we've been given the privilege of both receiving from and giving to our local community where the need arises. The goal of the yard sale was to raise money to be placed in savings accounts for Quest's kids. This 'savings accounts' initiative was started by Quest volunteer Marilyn for the purpose of teaching kids the importance and how-to of saving money. This all being said, we put some of the stored-away goods up for sale, letting the kids take the lead with sign-creation, set-up, and salesmanship. This is a time these kids will remember when they are withdrawing their saved-up funds!
At Quest, the summer months can often be characterized by outdoor laughs, growing crops, and a variety of recreational sports. However, once winter comes along (which it has!), Quest's brave kids fight the elements and make the snow-filled neighboring lot another environment to explore and create within.
Quest continues to aim towards teaching positive growth in Schenectady's youth - welcoming those who walk in the door the chance to quite simply be a kid. We offer a stress-free location for Schenectady's youth to try their best at a variety of free programs and activities!
Winter - here we come!
At the completion of Schenectady County Community College's CNA program, two of Quest's three-year volunteers walked across the stage and shook hands with some of Schenectady's political elite. Both Lyesha Harris and Jennifer Velez balanced classes with families, other jobs, and volunteering at Quest. We are extremely proud of their dedication and achievement.
What's the catch? They are both Latin Queens - a family too frequently judged and too frequently viewed in a negative light. This graduation goes to show that there isn't a person anywhere who should be viewed through an immediate lens of negativity. We are all people. At Quest, we make mistakes together and we grow together. We find many diamonds where most organizations refuse to look.
Quest has been running for years and it has been one of the only places I know that receives more backlash from the community. Ms. Judy has opened her doors to my family - we are The Latin kings and queens of Schenectady. We've been volunteering for almost 3 years strong. Not once has Ms. Judy judged us for who we are as a whole. Thank you Judy Atchinson because without you we wouldn't of made it this far with the kids and to those senators and assembly men who talk bad about us you don't know the thanks we owe to you because on Monday 11/9 me and my sister walked across SCCC stage and as CNA's and you shook our hands and congratulated us. Thank you from the so-called gang members who make a difference in the community. Now the question is would you have shaken our hands if we told you we are The Latin Queens of Schenectady and Quest Volunteers. Don't judge beforehand.
Quest knows first-hand how respectful and loving the kings and queens of Schenectady are. The bottom line is that every human being has amazing potential and value regardless of circumstances; It's time to look beyond labels and hearsay.
We thank and congratulate our graduating volunteers!