When Amber Coffman — whose only family in the world at the time was her mom — was just eight years old, she volunteered weekly at a homeless shelter. The precious people living at the shelter told her their personal stories even though she was so young — they needed someone to talk to. They also let Amber know that there was not enough room at the shelter; there were actually people who had to call the streets and woods their home. Learning of this broke her heart, and Amber states that she instantly knew her reason for being on Earth! She would use her life to serve the poorest of the poor. About this same time, Amber chose Mother Teresa as the subject for a school assignment. Mother Teresa’s extraordinary work became her greatest inspiration. Amber dreamed of starting an organization with a mission of bringing LOVE and food directly to those in the streets. She had to complete eight steps to turn her noble dream into a reality. She never gave up, and in February 1993, Happy Helpers for the Homeless began its service!
The very first “Happy Helpers” was extra special because one of the volunteers who came was a 13-year-old girl who had previously been homeless. She had stayed at the shelter at which Amber volunteered. She was doing better now and wanted to give back. Every week since, no matter the weather, the work of “Happy Helpers” has taken place. More than 985,000 lunches have been prepared and distributed thus far at the Maryland Headquarters. Along with LOVE and lunches, toiletries, clothing, blankets, toys, and resource books that offer great aid are directly distributed to men, women, and children in the streets.
Our arrival is anxiously awaited. The people are so hungry. One week, a large cake toppled over and lay spread on the ground. A gentleman ate it right off the ground! For many, this would be the only meal they will have all day; and when we hand someone a bar of soap, you would think they had received gold. We never judge the people, we LOVE the people! Their situations are terrible. Urgent needs are met. Once a gentleman’s only shirt was stolen through the night at a shelter — another was immediately provided to him. On a different occasion, a gentleman came to visit Amber. He told her that he had obtained a job and an apartment, but that it never would have happened without her! Amber has also been told that her smile means as much as the food.
There is always much happening at “Happy Helpers”. In addition to the compassionate street distributions, many special events are held annually for the people: 1) A big birthday celebration – otherwise, their birthdays would go by unnoticed; 2) A fantastic outing for the children at a family fun center – on this day, the children do not have to worry where or whether they will have dinner — instead, they are able to make wonderful childhood memories; and 3) A day of special services – breakfast, haircuts, dental treatment, and job search help. In April 1999, “Happy Helpers” began a new outreach to provide necessities to Guatemalan families living on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The three-hour round-trip is made three times a year, and has become very dear to the volunteers’ hearts. Our other additional major outreach is providing food baskets to many homeless teenagers 52 weeks a year.
Countless schools, businesses, churches, groups, and individuals have gotten involved in “Happy Helpers”. People from every race, background, and ability are represented. Amazing friendships are made! We are so thankful! We have also developed six replicable projects, such as “Sock-It-To-Me”, that can be completed for those whom we serve. The most exciting news is that “Happy Helpers Branches” are forming across the country! Amber fulfills numerous speaking engagements to get the message out about the critical needs that exist, with a goal of recruiting many to address these needs. People from 49 states, Holland, Guam, Canada, Kenya, and Australia have requested information. In 1995, as a guest on NBC’s The Today Show, Amber stated that it would be another dream come true for her to see “Happy Helpers” spread around the world!
The “Happy Helpers Story” has been told in two textbooks and ten books, including Courage Is Contagious. It is God who makes it all possible! Those who desire to start a branch of “Happy Helpers” are asked to maintain the five important and unique qualities of the organization, which serve as a model. These are:
- The main focus is on showing the people LOVE. We strongly believe that LOVE will help them get back on their feet.
- The work takes place no matter the weather because the people are in the streets no matter the weather.
- Only first quality food and items are distributed.
- It is an all-volunteer organization.
- Young people must be included in every branch.
Please give a bit of your heart to those who are homeless. We really hope that you will get involved with “Happy Helpers” – You Are Needed! There is no limit to what you can accomplish on behalf of those whom you serve. The compassionate service of “Happy Helpers” will continue until the need no longer exists.