By Kate Williams, Volunteer Coordinator
While each volunteer gives their time for different reasons, volunteering in itself can fulfill a warm fuzzy inside all of us. People want to help others in need, and while some have a specific idea of how to help, others do not. That’s where people like me, the Volunteer Coordinator, come in. My primary focus when rallying volunteers is to match someone’s desire to give their precious time and talents to a cause worthy of it. The tricky part is ensuring that volunteer events are meaningful for not only the volunteer but the organization as well.
While all volunteer project ideas have good intent, unfortunately I receive inquiries for specific projects that I simply cannot accommodate. If a volunteer and project are not well matched, then the project will not be mutually beneficial. The goal is for volunteers to have a meaningful experience that will make them want to volunteer again!
One of the most frequent volunteer requests I get is, “I just want to play with the poor and underprivileged children.” Unfortunately, this is one volunteer request I can rarely fulfill. When I see this on an application or hear it over the phone, I use the moment as an opportunity to educate the volunteer. If you truly want to help, it is important to remember that when asking an organization what help is needed, it may not always be tasks as glamorous as “playing with children.”
For example, volunteers looking to help at the St. John Bosco Children’s Center (SJBCC) need to understand what the Center really is. Children are placed at SJBCC because they have experienced severe neglect or abuse and are challenged by a typical foster home environment; therefore, a volunteer’s temporary presence at SJBCC may be more disruptive than helpful. There are alternative volunteer opportunities such as painting hallways or cleaning visitation rooms that are not glamorous but just as meaningful. Helping in indirect ways can have just as much of an impact on our client’s lives.
When volunteers come to give their time with an open mind and heart, then the experience becomes incredibly meaningful for everyone. Time will be well spent on something that makes a notable difference in our client’s lives. If you truly believe in an organization’s mission, then trust that the volunteer tasks they need to complete will be meaningful and impactful.
The perfect example of meaningful volunteering is a regular volunteer group made up of employees from Associated Bank that go to our CILA homes (Community Integrated Living Arrangements) quarterly and deep clean the home and do incredible amounts of necessary yard work. These are things the residents of the homes can not do themselves nor do the staff caring for them have time for either. Something as simple as a clean home or a groomed yard gives our clients confidence and dignity in their lives.
As you can see, having a meaningful volunteer experience doesn’t have to be something grand; it’s the little things that we sometimes take for granted that have the biggest impact. If you have an idea in mind, don’t be set on serving one demographic. Serving the developmentally disabled adults in our CILA homes is equally as impactful as serving a meal to children at St. John Bosco Children’s Center. So, my volunteers, keep your hearts open to where the need exists. Be willing to work with the Volunteer Coordinator to come up with a creative or unique way to match your talents to the organization’s needs. You never know where your meaningful volunteer moment will take place!
To learn more about volunteering at Caritas Family Solutions, click here.