An invitation from a friend eight years ago is all it took for Ahwatukee Foothills resident Teresa Akrish to get involved in the YMCA’s Outreach Program for Ahwatukee Seniors (YOPAS).

Once she got involved, she didn’t want to stop.

“I like the other volunteers and the clients,” Akrish said. “I felt like I was doing a lot of good for them, you could see that one-on-one. You were taking them to the doctor and they were getting help and didn’t have to depend on anyone else to get them there. Any time I volunteered elsewhere I didn’t have the one-on-one connection I really liked.”

Akrish was recently awarded the Linda Hoppe Above and Beyond Award, named after one of the founders of YOPAS. It’s given annually to a volunteer who goes above and beyond to help in any way the organization needs.

Akrish volunteers at least once a week for YOPAS and has filled several positions from treasurer to driver and even office worker.

“I didn’t know I’d get so much recognition,” she said. “There are so many people that do so many things. To be named above and beyond was really a thrill.”

YOPAS is a hyper-local nonprofit that asks Ahwatukee volunteers to serve Ahwatukee seniors. A majority of the assistance is transportation to and from doctor appointments or physical therapy, but volunteers also do some grocery shopping, take clients to get their hair cut, or various other chores that require getting out of the house.

During the summer many YOPAS volunteers leave for cooler weather, but Akrish said the clients usually stay put. That means the need for volunteers is greater during hot summer months. For those who aren’t sure if the organization is right for them, Akrish encourages them to give it a try.

“It’s really easy to volunteer,” she said. “You can pick and choose. You get an email every week and you can choose the clients. Most of the time I take clients I’ve never met before. We have a mentoring program so people can come and drive with someone else or they can do the driving and an experienced volunteer can ride with them. They can talk to volunteers and find out what it’s like.”

YOPAS recently worked with Sen. John McComish to pass a bill at the state Legislature that allows nonprofits to have a certain number of disabled parking placards. Those placards are shared among volunteers as they are out on assignment and have made transporting seniors easier than ever.

For more information on YOPAS or to get involved, call (602) 212-6088.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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