Library Diva's Guide to Volunteering…

{March 4, 2011}   little men…

My little boys came back the other day, they were part of the posse of 6 boys whose mom had been homeless and they needed to do service work…go back a couple posts to refresh if you need to.

Remember how they wore out my office mate and I with their giggling and rustling? How they dismantled my rock-em, sock-em robots, wind up toys and marble racer? How they selected their favorite foods from my all year food bin outside my office and left like a tornado? Yep, that was them and they came back…

But this time completely different. They were excited that I had fixed the robots, that my office was back in good shape, and that they were needed to help mommy “pay the rent”.They were happy to see me and remembered that I had made a point to shake their hands when I met each one of them. They rushed up to me this time to shake my hand again.

The task that the family was doing was simple. Get valid library cards for those in the family that didn’t have them. Pay off fines or work through a payment plan for those that had fines, utilize the library as a friend and resource, read as a family, promote literacy and promote the library.

Some skeptics may think…what? That’s a volunteer task? Are you kidding? I’m not. Some of the most simple things in life, things that some take for granted such as a library card, reading, or stepping foot into a library are things that aren’t considered in many corners of our community.You would be surprised of all the people that have never stepped into their local library.

It’s intimidating. Only smart people come here. They don’t read well or like to read. They don’t know how to use the computer.They don’t know where to go. They don’t like to ask questions because they’re afraid of what people may think of them… I get a lot of that when they come in to meet me…

Some may think I’m too soft. Too social service minded. Too easy….but why not go easy sometimes? People are homeless and living out of their cars, no jobs, no medical care, no resources…life is hard, why add to it?

As the boys played quietly on my floor with the magnet sticks and balls making pyramids and hexagons, their mom had told me that in the past few weeks they have changed. They read as a family, they laugh at the pictures in books, the boys are more patient and love selecting their books. The 5-year-old likes to say that he’s reading to “help pay the rent”….

…I told her that’s fine to say that….because eventually he’ll be reading “for an education” or he’ll be reading “for pleasure”….

It was time for them to leave so they picked up the toys, put on their coats and lined up to shake my hand good-bye…

Sometimes the simplest things are the most successful…


{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.

et cetera
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