Jerry Malone recently drove 80 plus miles at the crack of dawn from his home in Wickenburg to Mesa, not for his latest construction contract, but to volunteer to help people experiencing homelessness.
He makes the long-distance drive to other sites around the Valley every month as an ambassador for United Way’s Project Connect, a role he’s proudly held for five years. During the event, individuals and families who are homeless, or on the brink of financial ruin, access health and human services like food and clothing, housing, counseling and job placement.
It’s up to Jerry to match up guests with volunteers who guide individuals to the services they need to start their journey back to health, financial stability and housing. Despite the long drives and early mornings, Jerry greets every guest and volunteer with a friendly smile and genuine enthusiasm.
“A lot of guests arrive hungry and exhausted and ask me why they have to wait, but once they’ve eaten and had a hot shower, they always come back to thank me for getting them started.”
Although Jerry’s never been homeless, he said he’s come pretty close at times when he lived more recklessly.
“It could’ve been me at the snap of a finger. I am fortunate because I have family who was there to help me when I said I needed it. Unfortunately, most of the people we serve don’t have the same support.”
Today Jerry is there for people in our community: a mom who is able to feed her children or a dad who secures a job through the work placement services.
“When I see the joy in their eyes and relief on their faces after receiving the help they needed, it’s so hard to describe how I feel.”