By Laurie Nee, REACH Volunteer
I came to know REACH in 2014. I was invited to my first Reach for the Stars Gala by a dear friend, and had very little knowledge of the organization or their work.
After the fun and excitement of a silent auction and a delicious dinner, I learned exactly what this amazing organization does. While listening to moving speeches by REACH’s Executive Director, Laura Van Zandt, and a survivor speaker, I knew that someday I would get involved.
Fast forward to September of 2016, the year I retired. Instead of teaching a class I was now enrolled in one, or to be more specific, a training program. After completing 6 hours of training I would be able to volunteer at the holiday party.
The training itself was led by a group of the most well- informed and compassionate leaders, teaching not only about all aspects of domestic violence, but also focusing on self-care for volunteers and professionals, as well as survivors. As anxious as I was to get to the holiday party, I missed the training when it was over.
The holiday party was wonderful. I was at the arts and crafts table and was able to see first-hand the happiness of the kids who were able to wander from activity to food to Santa and back again. I knew that I had found my volunteer “home.”
Luckily for me, that meant more training. I wanted to be able to work in the office as well as the shelter. Once this next session was over, I started doing childcare in the evenings at the (old) office. It was the perfect opportunity to work with kids again.
Shortly after I began, REACH moved to its new offices. I started helping at the front desk once a week. That meant learning the new phone system, which was challenging then and is still challenging now! But as always, the staff is there to support and no major mistakes have been made! Little by little, in looking for ways to help, I have been able to do projects for our development team, organize the donation room and closet, keep the waiting room area shelves stocked, make sure each room and area in the office has the supplies it requires, help with childcare as needed, organize the playroom at the shelter, do pick-ups at Cradles to Crayons for advocates, and most importantly to me, I get to do academic home-work help with delightful kids! Another wonderful opportunity I’ve had is doing health fairs, both in the community and in schools. Through these, I’ve been able to talk to so many people about their experiences and knowledge of domestic violence, and share important information about a subject that is difficult to talk about.
I knew when I retired that there would be a lot of volunteer activities available. I also knew as soon as I became involved at REACH that this was where I was meant to be. Everyone is warm and welcoming. They are constantly checking in to make sure things are ok. I am always being thanked for what I do, which means a lot. I am given as much as I am willing to take on. Mostly, I am grateful to be able to support these dedicated and amazing people who do intense and important work with an abundance of compassion, dedication, and humor. For anyone who is looking to be involved with an organization that truly makes a difference in people’s lives, REACH is where you want to be.
If you would like to join Laurie on our amazing team of volunteers, you can learn more about volunteer opportunities and download an application on the Get Involved Page.