Family Volunteering: The Conley’s
Victoria, Ashley and Madison Conley have taken family volunteering to a new level. They have dedicated their time to the Widows & Orphans firefighter’s charity for the past four years. The “Conley Chicks,” as they refer to themselves, enjoy giving back and they hope to inspire others to do the same.
Unless there’s a tragedy like a flood or a fire, a lot of people can’t understand or feel the need to give back, Victoria says. “For me it’s about unconditional love. You give back to the community you were born and raised in and it’s so rewarding. How amazing this world would be if everyone just did a little to make everything better. It would be incredible.”
Victoria instilled this in her daughters from a young age. It became natural to look out for others and now it’s a way of life. “If the girls continue this with their families, and I believe they will, it will really make a difference. You look and see the other side of life and how things are, and the best part is it makes you very humble to volunteer.”
It all started at an Easter egg hunt when the girls were in pre-school. At ages three and four they each stuffed 100 eggs with candy. No small feat at that age. Then in 2006, they helped start up a church in Arizona which was converted from a school. “For them to learn at that age how to give back was an amazing thing,” Victoria says.
Victoria works at Woodlake Elementary Community Charter School, the school she attended as a child. Girl Friday wears many hats as a campus aide and soon she’ll head back to school herself to become a teacher. She won’t graduate until she’s 54 or 55, but beyond that there’s something else her heart is set on. Victoria says, “My dream has always been to be on a Red Cross Disaster Team. Even in my golden years, if there’s a disaster and people are in need, I will go right away. While traveling to the disaster I’ll probably wonder what I was thinking, but I know once we’ve landed and my feet are on the ground, I will know it’s where I’m supposed to be.”
Madison, a high school junior, will soon turn 17. Ashley is a sophomore who is turning 16. Both girls are filled with compassion.
Madison is involved with the largest national movement to provide free, real-hair wigs to women with cancer. Twice she’s donated her gorgeous, thick hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. The first time she gave 11 inches and the second time eight or nine inches. “Just knowing you’ve given back for a cause and made things better than what they were before, makes me feel better,” Madison says.
Ashley is part of Humanitas, a college preparatory program at her school, for students interested in global, social, political, and environmental issues and events. Three core college-prep classes are available at each grade level and the program prepares students for college and beyond by requiring involvement in community service projects. Students volunteer a minimum of 10 hours per semester.
Family involvement is encouraged. “We were already volunteering when I heard community service is part of the program, so I was very excited. Knowing it’s your local community you’re giving back to makes me feel really good,” Ashley says.
The types of events and religions involved aren’t factors they consider when opportunities arise, Victoria says. “All my friends around us are Jewish and even on the High Holidays, my girlfriend Joy will call to see if we want to volunteer at the Synagogue, and we do. The girls earn hours too.”
Ashley started volunteering for the Widows & Orphans charity partly because Victoria’s cousin, Marketing & Development Director Marlene Casillas, encouraged the family to help with the golf ball drop for the annual golf tournament. They’ve continued volunteering on a regular basis ever since. Madison also goes to school with a son of Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association President Bob Steinbacher. The Relief Association is the umbrella organization that runs the charity, so the Conley’s had two connections to it.
Working in the charity’s office allowed the girls to learn skills no longer taught in schools, like typing and filing. “We do paperwork, things which require organization skills, and we communicate and work with people in the office. It’s good groundwork for when Ashley and Madison enter the real work world. They’ve learned to conduct themselves so they can speak and be clear about what needs to be done,” Victoria adds.
The Conley’s find volunteer opportunities posted on Facebook, like working at a local food pantry. Victoria also found the West Hills Sunshine Club, an organization which collects coats, blankets and other items for the homeless by word of mouth. She dropped off items recently in time to be handed out before the big winter storm. People are aware of Goodwill and the Salvation Army, but numerous local charities are also in need of help.
By Denise Schlegel, Freelance Writer