It’s Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we at REACH could not be more grateful for our volunteers. Last year alone, volunteers contributed over 4,700 hours of service to REACH. We have volunteers who help in a number of ways, some of which may be surprising to you.
If you’ve ever been to our office, you’ve probably met one of our front desk volunteers. This role is staffed by a number of volunteers, many of whom are student interns. We are so grateful for all of their help and the incredibly supportive environment they help create. One rock-star in particular who we are so grateful to have is Laurie. If you’ve ever dropped by on a Monday morning, you’ve probably met her! She greets survivors and guests at the door with her warm smile and presence, and that warmth is extended to everyone she interacts with in the office. Laurie has been a great help in the office when we receive in-kind donations by sorting them, keeping the donation area organized in the waiting area, and tidying up our donation room. She is someone who is always willing to jump in and help with childcare, picking up donations, or just about any random task we ask of her!
Laurie may be one of the volunteers you run into at the office, but there are so many more who help us behind the scenes you will probably never see. We are so grateful for amazing volunteers like Sala, who completed her internship with us this past year. In addition to conducting her research surrounding a comparative analysis of domestic violence supports and response between the United States and Ghana, Sala found time to assemble several pieces of IKEA furniture when we moved our office. If you’ve ever sat on the couch in our reception area, or had a meeting in our conference room, you can thank Sala for her hard work.
You may have read some of our previous pieces about people like Cris, and Sumana who help us answer our 24-hour hotline. But our shelter is also where you would find Bill. 8am or 8pm, we call Bill Segal when property issues arise at the shelter. Whether the water heater died, the washing machine won’t spin or we can’t find the right circuit breaker, Bill answers all the calls and often physically comes to the shelter even at hours that he’d rather be sleeping. Bill helps us add a bunk bed when large families are coming, or put up a new coat of paint to keep the rooms feeling welcoming. He weeds and mows the yard in 90 degree weather and spreads ice melt in 9 degree weather.
We serve many folks in our shelter program, but when it comes time for them (or any of the 200 survivors in our community program) to move, we call people like Kevin. Kevin is such an unbelievable volunteer and person. He often comes and speaks to new groups of volunteers, and shares his passion and stories of the crazy adventures he has had volunteering. For example, once he and one of our advocates drove to Lawrence to pick up a few items for a survivor who had recently moved into new housing. They didn’t have much furniture, so Kevin helped several pieces of furniture from the furniture bank. Most were easy to move. The loveseat was a different story… it might have been the heaviest loveseat that has ever existed. It was December, snow covered the ground, so the furniture needed to go through the front door, down a narrow hallway, and down two flights of stairs before it would make it into the apartment. About halfway down that stairwell, the couch got stuck… After a lifetime of finagling and pivoting we finally were able to free it from its lodged position. Eventually we were able to finagle it from its lodged position. We assumed after this fiasco, Kevin might not return our calls with future requests to help, but that’s not who he is. Time after time, Kevin has come to our rescue, and we can’t even count the number of survivors who can sit comfortably in their homes because of his labor. Kevin is always THE muscle in our moving crew, and despite that, he is cracking jokes, asking the survivors how they are doing or if they need help putting the furniture together. We are beyond lucky and more grateful than we could ever express for Kevin’s dedication to REACH and our advocacy programs. (You’ll hear more about Kevin, including his role in making the artist platters happen at the Reach for the Stars Gala, if you come to our Annual Meeting in a few weeks!
In addition to these amazing volunteers who help us on a regular basis, we also have volunteers who help us make our seasonal programs like the Reach for the Stars Gala or the Holiday Gift Program a reality. For 10 years, Joan has led a team of volunteers to organize the dinner at our holiday party which serves over 300 people a year. She coordinates dozens of cooks/bakers and their respective food drop-offs and last minute event emergencies. We also have amazing partners like Donna at Good Shepherd Church and Kristin at United Parish Auburndale who for over 12 years have organized their faith communities to sponsor numerous families. They not only coordinate with our team, but also create tags for the church, collect gifts, follow up with those who have forgotten their gifts, ensure all the gifts are labeled, shop for last minute needs, and bring the incredibly generous, complete, and organized gifts to our program whether it is in rain, snow, sleet, or the occasional sunshine. As if that wasn’t enough, they even mail us late items (even though they’ve already shopped to replace those gifts and ensure the family had all they requested), apologizing for being so generous that they had more to send…
This week, and every week, we want to thank our incredible team of volunteers. REACH began as a volunteer run organization, and to this day we could not function without their support. Thank you for the hours of lifting furniture, organizing donations, answering phone calls, and raking leaves. Because of you, and your support, we are able to continue building healthy communities by ending domestic violence.
To learn more about how to become a volunteer with REACH, please visit our Get Involved page.