MEDFORD, Ore. — Sparrow Clubs has been a force for good in the southern Oregon community for years now, connecting children in medical need with school kids who volunteer their time with acts of sponsored community service. But with the continuing impacts of coronavirus, Sparrow Clubs is looking at new ways to keep up this vital mission.
"Like most non-profits around here, different fundraising events are having to be changed in various ways," said Matt Sampson, executive director for Sparrow Clubs USA. "So we've been doing some major pivoting."
Ordinarily, Sparrow Clubs would host its annual "Wings of Hope" luncheon in May to raise community contributions that keep the program going, but COVID-19 made that next to impossible. Instead, the organization is hosting a virtual event that anyone can visit in order to donate.
"We've been doing a lot of work behind the scenes, preparing an event page for people to come and learn, and be inspired by Sparrow Clubs — and hopefully donate to our cause," Sampson continued.
Sampson said that 2020 will see the return of Dancing with the Rogue Valley Stars, which brought in record contributions last year, but plans for the event are still being ironed out.
Though coronavirus could continue to impact how Sparrow Clubs interacts with schools in the coming school year, Sampson expressed his optimism.
"We deal with compassion and empathy, and there's always a way to inspire kids with those things," Sampson said. "Our main avenue to do that is typically assemblies in schools — but if that doesn't happen, then we're prepared to go virtual, and we're prepared to work with school district and teachers and create virtual or online content, and do service activities out in the community as health regulations allow."
Despite COVID-19 shuttering Oregon schools before the end of the school year, Sparrow Clubs reported that students from 23 southern Oregon schools completed thousands of hours of community service this year, raising almost $80,000 for local kids in medical need.
"I hope people believe, as I do, that compassion and empathy and service are essential services — essential attributes that kids need to have," Sampson said. "And we're really good at creating those opportunities . . . and the main way that people can help us right now is to visit our virtual luncheon and please donate."
Matt Sampson led Sparrow Clubs' southern Oregon chapter for years, and was appointed executive director of the greater Sparrow Clubs USA organization in May.