Library Diva's Guide to Volunteering…

{January 26, 2011}   Homeless

In the matter of 3 hours I had 2 families who were once homeless come in to see me to work off some workfare volunteer hours. The first was a mom with 6 sons ranging from 1 year to 23 years old. She had been homeless, living with friends here and there until she was able to get into an apartment. She was given some assistance for her rent and part of that assistance requirement is to volunteer with community service as a pay back.

I keep lots of toys in my office and as the boys played, their mom and her fiance filled out the paperwork and told me their story. She was interesting. She had been a massage therapist and had done really well at one point, but with the economy, more and more of her clients had stopped coming to her, budgeting their needs and wants, and using any extra money they had to pay for the things that were necessary. Massages are nice to have but not too many are necessary although many of us think they are.

I set them up on a volunteer assignment and plan and as they were leaving my office noticed my tub of canned food that I keep. She hadn’t received her food stamps yet and could they take some ravioli and soup? I gave them a bag and they cleaned my out. Boys are big eaters.

That family actually wore me out too, so as I regrouped and answered some voice mail, I reflected on how things have could have unraveled for her.

About a half hour later, there was a knock on my office door and in came another woman. Soft spoken, kind and in need of workfare hours as well. She had been homeless too, but she had sent her children away, finding places for them to live while she and her boyfriend lived out of her car. She still had a job, but working at McDonald’s and having 3 boys wasn’t enough to be able to keep an apartment. Between her, her boyfriend, her brother and his girlfriend, they all were able to pull enough together to get an apartment, but this month they needed rent assistance and in turn needed to do workfare. Her youngest son came back to her just in time for Christmas. I’m meeting with her tomorrow to discuss her plan and get her set up. I’m sure I’ll hear more of her story then.

It’s amazing that we live in one of the richest counties in our state and there are homeless families that are struggling daily. If you are able, please continue to donate food, blankets and clothing to shelters, food banks and community centers.

You don’t want to look too deeply in to how people have gotten there, just accept that they are there now and need a kind word or a helping hand. You may not see it as much as I do, but there is a need more than you may know.


{December 16, 2009}   Give. Feed. Clothe. Help…

It’s the semester end for many high schools and I know lots of the students are seeking extra credit and doing plenty of last-minute panic in trying to get their mandatory hours in. Knowing how the Generation Y and Me seems to operate in regard to volunteering, I organized a Food Drive Blitz. Come to me from 4:00-5:00 with your food items for the Food Banks for the Holiday’s and I’ll sign off on service hours. Our staff Association is running the drive so why not add to it and help it out?

In the first 15 minutes we received 75 food items. Not too shabby, throughout the hour, more donations rolled in, but it was the first 15 minutes that I was stoked about. We had lots of Ramon Noodles, Snack Pack and Ravioli. I really didn’t care what they donated, they were donating. They were helping their community and the library was a place to do that.

It’s not a direct service to the library, but a direct service to the community that we help serve. Every little bit helps. I was thrilled with the participation. We did the same thing around the end of October for the Thanksgiving Holiday and throughout the summer. Sometimes its just getting our young people involved in the easiest way that brings them back for more. On the staff side, we have a tree that we have in our buildings that have the wants of our adopted families. Out in our lobby we have a mitten and hat tree. It feels good to help others. We need to help others, but most importantly, we have to want to help others. As Volunteer Coordinators, creating those opportunities, is a big part of what we do.

Things don’t have to be so difficult. Sometimes an opportunity can be as  simple as a can of Ravioli.

et cetera
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