Homeless to Housed: The Wonderful Gift of Volunteering


By Valorie Crout, AM Chief Program Officer

Whenever I see a volunteer, I always think to myself, “Wow, they look so happy! Maybe a bit exhausted from all the hard work, but still happy.”   To me, volunteers seem to always give off a vibe of hope, gratitude and joy.

I then start to think, “I wish I had the time and energy to volunteer myself.”  My next thought usually is that if I did volunteer it’s likely I would gain energy from the gifts I would receive through serving.

As I reflect on a few of my own volunteer experiences, I recall feelings of gratitude, compassion and joy.

Years ago I volunteered as a mentor for a teenager in foster care.  I remember during one visit she asked me, “Why are you always so nice to me?”  I was taken aback by her words.  These words left a lasting impact on me since, after all, all I did was listen to her as she talked.  That simple act of listening created a ripple effect in this young woman’s life, as well as in mine.   What a gift we gave to each other!

I also recall a time when I volunteered for the Pierce County AIDS Foundation, delivering bags of food to people living with HIV/AIDS.  I have an imagine burnt in my mind to this day of my son, who was about 7 or 8 at the time, walking up to a young man to hand him a bag of food.  The interaction between the man and my son was truly priceless!  They both had smiles on their faces that went from ear-to-ear.   That was over 20 years ago and I still smile inside and out when I think of that interaction.  What a gift!

These memories as well as others remind me of all the gifts that can come from volunteering.  I understand why so many people come back to Associated Ministries every year to give of themselves.

People have returned to volunteer for Paint Tacoma-Beautiful every year for 10, 20 and even 30 years!  Painting the home of a senior who has lost their support system can bring a feeling of hope and unity.

We have also seen the same people returning to volunteer year after year at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites.   Sitting across the table from a struggling household to make sure they receive every single dollar owed to them from their tax return can be thrilling and very gratifying.

Who wouldn’t want to volunteer?!

People are returning to volunteer for these and other programs because of the gifts they receive while giving to others.  There is something magical that happens when you generously give of your time and energy.  You are not getting paid or required to be there,-rather you are there just because you care!  I am convinced that giving back is an essential part of our own happiness and goodwill.

I challenge you to think about ways in which you can freely give of your time and energy, even if it is just a small amount of time.  Every hour counts!

For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Wendy Morris, Associated Ministries’ Community, Engagement Coordinator, at wendym@associatedministries.org or (253) 383-3056 ext. 117.

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