L.I.V.E. Volunteers

L.I.V.E. volunteers at the Prostate On Site Project Celebrity Golf Tournament.

(Photo courtesy of L.I.V.E.)

One year ago, 28-year-old Mesa human resources manager Erica Weatherford sent emails to every woman she knew in Arizona, asking if they were ready to make a difference in their community.

“I received tons of emails back,” she says.

Within the first two days, she received 20 to 30 responses to her call for action. Many were from women who were the giving type but didn’t know how to take initiative.

“Sometimes it seems pretty overwhelming to find volunteer opportunities and ways to help,” Weatherford wrote in that original email. “I’ve procrastinated and justified and have yet to really make a difference in the lives of others. For me, 2011 is going to be a year of initiative.”

With that, community volunteer group Ladies Involved in Volunteer Efforts, or L.I.V.E., was born. It turned 1 in January.

After the pain of losing a baby in 2010 and her husband losing his job, Weatherford started the group to help those in greater need than herself, which in turn helped her overcome her loss.

“I realized how blessed I am in my life, and as a result, I decided I would turn such a negative experience into something positive for me,” she says.

The group meets about once a month, and participants are encouraged to pitch ideas for their next volunteering stint, according to Weatherford and April Collins, 29, a member since its conception.

The group has no restrictions on where, who or even what species they volunteer for.

“We deal with everyone’s passions,” says Yvonne Cook, 34, of Chandler.

At any given event, 15 to 20 women give their time. They’ve made arts and crafts with children at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, served a dinner for Phoenix Rescue Mission and helped out at A New Leaf human service organization in Mesa and no-kill animal shelter R.E.S.C.U.E. in Tempe.

Last month, L.I.V.E debuted its biggest project yet, Ride-Rock-n-Rescue. The event was a collaboration between the group and Mesa’s LaDep Custom Cruisers.

Attendees rode bicycles from Fibber Magee’s Irish Restaurant & Pub in Chandler to Priceless Primetime Bar in Chandler to O’Kelley’s Sports Bar & Grill in Mesa. Approximately 450 people attended, and the group raised nearly $5,000 for R.E.S.C.U.E. and Ear Candy, an organization devoted to youth access to music.

L.I.V.E. consists of women from all walks of life, mostly between the ages of 23 and 35. Some of them found out about the group through word of mouth.

“Many (volunteers) started off as strangers,” says Weatherford, but “so many friendships were created.”

Collins, a massage therapist from Tempe, finds time after work and on her days off to volunteer for L.I.V.E. and R.E.S.C.U.E. She appreciates “hanging out with the ladies” while helping others in need.

Cook is an administrator for a pediatrics office, a foster mother and frequent L.I.V.E volunteer.

“If you care about it, you’ll make time,” she says.

The group plans to do an Easter activity with children at the Child Crisis Center in Mesa. They’ll also donate time and fabric to Leigh’s Blankies, a Queen Creek group whose mission is to give blankets to children in need.

Weatherford sees no limit to L.I.V.E.’s potential. Her goal is to have thousands of members and a recognized impact on the community.

“We are all such powerful women, and we can really make a difference if we band together,” she wrote in her original email.

Today, she says the results of that message have been “awesome”:

“I feel like if I can start a small community movement, than anyone can do it.”

• Angela, a senior studying journalism at Arizona State University, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or tribintern@evtrib.com

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