Like many organizations that provide face-to-face services worldwide, American Home Finding Association (AHFA) has faced many challenges throughout the pandemic. School closures left their AHFA Child Care Center employees unemployed for five months. Struggles to meet ratio requirements at their shelter and group homes were abundant due to staff testing positive for COIVD. Yet, through it all AHFA staff went above and beyond to continue to provide the services their clients need on a day-to-day basis.

The significant decline in the available workforce also raised issues for the Agency. AHFA saw applications slow drastically and a significant increase in employees quitting without notice. “For example,” Tracey Boxx-Vass, Executive Director, said, “We contacted 55 applicants to set up interviews, and only 12 agreed to interview. Of those interviewed, the Agency sought to hire seven. Four were hired, and within the five months since, two are still employed with the Agency, and two have quit.” The lack of applicants in the hiring process has led AHFA’s current supervisory and direct staff to work long hours and experience greater work-related stress.

In their Nonprofit Pandemic Support Fund application, AHFA stated, “The Agency feels very passionately about providing a self-care reward to the staff members as the nature of their work can be emotionally and physically draining. In times of such dramatic workforce shortages, AHFA’s Board of Directors has continuously struggled to find ways to reward the current staff for their efforts.” Unfortunately, due to budget constraints and restricted funding streams, the Agency could not otherwise purchase rewards for all the staff members who worked so hard to keep the Agency running.

Boxx-Vass shared stories of the impact the staff rewards had on the Agency’s employees, which they purchased using their Nonprofit Pandemic Support Fund award. “Our staff were incredibly grateful for the gift card. Many of the people here receive low wages due to the state’s reimbursement of services provided. Staff are not here for the money they make; they are here because they care about the youth we serve. One staff member said she was looking for change around her home to use for gas money so she could make it to work over the weekend. She said this couldn’t have come at a better time. Another staff member said they had a limited amount of food left until the next payday. They described the gift card as a blessing. We have definitely seen a boost in morale even as we continue to work with some of the most volatile kids in the state.”