Barbara Hatch, Veterans Heritage Project (VHP) founder and program director, will be recognized by the Hon Kachina Council at their 39th annual event, held on May 7th at the Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Presented annually since 1977, the Hon Kachina Volunteer Awards program recognizes the achievement of outstanding Arizona volunteers and increases public awareness about volunteerism.
Honorees receive a one-of-a-kind hand carved Hon Kachina doll and a cash award for their nonprofit organization.
Barbara is one of seven honorees who were chosen from nearly 100 nominations. The rigorous selection process takes several weeks as council members interview the individual who nominated the candidate, as well as three additional references who are familiar with the candidate’s volunteer work. In the final review round, a council member also visits with the candidate to witness their volunteer work first-hand.
“I nominated Barbara because I have been privileged to witness not only her passion and dedication for serving veterans and students, but also the exemplary level of service and quality she brings to all of her volunteer work,” said Laura Byers, VHP board president.
“Barbara volunteers 365 days a year and has been doing so for 11 years,” Byers said. “She has made a significant and immeasurable impact in not only the development of Veterans Heritage Project, but in the immediate and future lives of her students, veterans, and their families. Our family has personally experienced the enormously positive impact of her work. Barbara taught my son about setting goals and working hard to achieve those goals. VHP awoke in my son an incredible passion for education, service, giving back to the community, and the importance of living each day to pursue his dreams.”
Barbara, a retired AP history school teacher from the Cave Creek Unified School District, began her volunteer work in 2004 when she established an after-school club that would allow her students to meet with veterans, learn from their experiences, and document the veterans’ oral history through video archiving at the Library of Congress.
From 2004 to 2009, the club evolved with student participation in civic events and Veterans Day celebrations, along with the publication of student essays in annual hardbound books entitled Since You Asked. With the support of parents who understood the value the program could bring to students in additional schools, VHP incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit in 2009.
As VHP grew to 12 chapters in 2013, Barbara made the decision to retire from teaching so she could dedicate herself full-time to VHP in order to properly honor her veteran partners and provide quality support and training for the students and teachers. VHP chapters are now in 20 schools throughout Arizona and Barbara continues to volunteer at least 60 hours a week in mentoring students and teachers, speaking with community groups, and organizing civic event participation.
The lasting impact from Barbara’s volunteer work comes through the preservation of history, the building of student character, the healing that takes place in participating veterans, and the bonding of families. Students who come from different backgrounds and experiences and even cities across the state, learn how to interact with a different generation, as well as how to work together to accomplish a goal. The successful completion of the program not only builds students’ academic skills, but it builds the soft skills of interpersonal communication, confidence, and respect for others that is required for effective leadership.
Because of their belief in Barbara and her program, more than 45 individuals volunteer their time on a regular basis with VHP, serving as board members, teacher advisors, chapter advocates, committee members, and classroom speakers. Their work in building a sustainable program recently reached a milestone, with the hiring of the non-profit’s first executive director.
“VHP is so successful that there is a waiting list of veterans who want to be interviewed, a steady stream of calls from interested teachers and schools, and alumni students who seek out opportunities to stay involved,” commented Michelle DiMuro, executive director. “I believe that Barbara has laid the foundation for VHP to serve as a national model for immersive learning, and with community support can be replicated in any school in the country.”