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Volunteer Spotlight Series: Elizabeth House

Posted by HALO Award on September 20, 2018 at 1:30 PM


Kate Rhymer, Volunteer Awardee (left) & Debbie Unruh, Executive Director (right)


Please give a brief explanation of what you do at Elizabeth House?

Before the onboard of Elizabeth House’s new Volunteer Coordinator, my work with the organization focused on individually interviewing people who are interested in volunteering with Elizabeth House and giving them a tour of our house and program. I then connect them based on what our current needs are, how they’d like to be involved, and what specific skills they might have to share with us.


When and why did you first get involved with Elizabeth House?

I’ve been involved at Elizabeth House in some capacity since around 2008. I jumped in because I was touched by the mission of providing shelter and family-focused support to pregnant homeless women and their children. I served on the board for six years, while also being a mentor and Volunteer Coordinator. My personality as a “connector” seemed like the perfect fit to be able to link volunteers and their desire to make a difference in our program. Plus – my children were grown and I love babies!


What motivates you to stay involved at Elizabeth House?

I continue to be involved because Elizabeth House is a family – to the women who live there as residents, and to volunteers and staff as well. At Elizabeth House I have the opportunity to spend time with our residents and talk with them about their struggles and successes, watch their babies grow, and give them encouragement. I’ve also developed close friendships with our staff over the years. It such a welcoming and warm environment.


What is your favorite memory of volunteering with Elizabeth House?

The most meaningful experience I have had at Elizabeth House was in my capacity as a mentor. I was working with a young woman who had no family in the Los Angeles area, and I was privileged to be in the delivery room when we welcomed her baby girl into the world! It was such an amazing experience, and I’ve continued to walk alongside her as her daughter has grown. It’s quite humbling, because I’m sure I’ve learned more from her than she’s learned from me!


What has surprised you most about working with Elizabeth House? What do you wish other people knew about Elizabeth House?

Elizabeth House was founded in 1994, and I’m always amazed to think that for 24 years we’ve been empowering women to get back on their feet. In fact, some of the babies born at Elizabeth House have now graduated from college!! I’d also like people to know about our alumni services program which offers the women additional support once they leave the house and gives them the tools they need to continue to take their next step forward in life.


Elizabeth House is so much more than just a shelter program and a roof over someone’s head. It’s a place where our residents face the difficult journey away from abuse and neglect as they move towards wholeness and stability. It’s a place where volunteers can feel connected as they do their part to further our mission – whether by holding babies, driving a new mom to a doctor’s appointment, sorting donations, teaching a class. In Elizabeth House I’ve found a place where I can be a part of something much bigger than myself, and my life has been transformed by serving there.


For more information on volunteering with Elizabeth House, please visit elizabethhouse.net/volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight Series: Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Posted by HALO Award on July 2, 2018 at 5:10 PM


Cindy Walkenbach, Volunteer Awardee, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden


Please give a brief explanation of what you do at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

I’m President of the two hundred-member RSABG Volunteer Organization and a member of the Garden’s Board of Overseers. My regular volunteer assignment is as a Nature Interpreter (docent) leading tours for elementary students and adults and supporting a wide variety of community and educational events.


When and why did you first get involved with Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden?

I began volunteering on a limited basis in 2009 and became a regular volunteer in 2011 upon completion of the required Garden training. I love nature and being outdoors and always knew that once I retired, I’d want to volunteer here.


What motivates you to stay involved at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden?

I thoroughly enjoy the interaction of introducing children and adults to the native plants and animals that are part of our California heritage. I also appreciate the camaraderie of the wonderful people who volunteer and work at the Garden: well-educated, committed, passionate folks who love the natural world and strive daily to preserve it.


What is your favorite memory of volunteering with Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden?

Several years ago I lead a tour of second graders from a local Title I school, and it was apparent that most children had not been in a natural setting like the Garden provides. I remember one little girl in particular whose excitement was palpable. At the end of the tour when asked what she had learned, she threw up her arms with great enthusiasm and exclaimed, “I just LOVE NATURE!” I think of her each time I lead a tour.


What has surprised you most about working with Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden? What do you wish other people knew about Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden?

The diversity of the Garden’s activities is amazing, but prior to volunteering, I simply knew it as a lovely, peaceful place to walk. What it really is, however, is a fabulous 86-acre outdoor “museum” devoted to preserving California’s native plants which represent 25% of all U.S. flora. It houses the botany graduate program for Claremont Graduate University and is a major plant research center with an extensive library. Its conservation and restoration programs operate a seed bank, cultivate native plants for areas devastated by natural disasters, and it houses the tenth largest herbarium in the U.S. with over 1.2 million species. In recent years, it has developed a retail nursery of native plants and has become a lovely venue for weddings and special events.


What would you tell someone who is interested in volunteering with Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden?

The opportunities here are countless and appeal to many interests. One can cashier in the gift shop, pull weeds and tend plants, quietly catalogue in the research library, or create lovely bouquets for events as a member of the Native Design team. One can use skills acquired over years of working or try totally new things to do. Volunteers can commit to regular assignments like becoming docents or simply help out occasionally for events and projects. What is truly special are the friendships formed among volunteers and with very appreciative Garden leaders and staffers whose gratitude for the volunteers is demonstrated often. A sense of “team” pervades the organization and the common thread that links us all is our collective commitment to protect, preserve, and educate our community about California’s amazing native flora.


For more information about volunteering with Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, please visit www.rsabg.org/volunteer/volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight Series: Strength United

Posted by HALO Award on February 7, 2018 at 2:05 PM



Cibele Souza, Volunteer Awardee, Strength United 


Please give a brief explanation of what you do at Strength United.

I'm an In-Home counselor. I work with families struggling with substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and other challenges.


When and why did you first get involved with Strength United?

I started with Strength United in September 2013 because I heard great things about their community program.


What is your favorite memory of volunteering with Strength United?

I have several favorite memories. One of them is with a teenager who was struggling to finish high school. One year after concluding the Family Preservation Program with her family, she contacted me to share that she was starting a college program!


What has surprised you most about working with Strength United? What do you wish other people knew about Strength United?

Strength United has amazing supervisors. Strength United makes a difference in people's lives by all the support and programs they offer to the community.


What would you tell someone who is interested in volunteering with Strength United?

It's a challenging population to work with, but if your heart is in it, you will have an amazing experience.


For more information about volunteering with Strength United, please visit www.csun.edu/eisner-education/strength-united/volunteering

Volunteer Spotlight Series: Centinela Youth Services & Lake Avenue Community Foundation

Posted by HALO Award on August 29, 2017 at 3:55 PM


Denise Yusuff, Volunteer Awardee

Centinela Youth Services


What do you do at Centinela Youth Services?

I am a volunteer mediator. I volunteer for the victim offender restitution program and the families able to resolve situations program.


When and why did you first get involved with Centinela Youth Services?

I became involved with Centinela Youth Services in 2014. I wanted to volunteer for an organization that improved the chances for our youth, enriched their lives and gave our youth an opportunity to overcome obstacles. I am very invested in making sure that our youth have the best opportunity to move beyond their current situation and have an enriched future.


What motivates you to stay involved at Centinela Youth Services?

I love seeing youth become empowered to take ownership of their actions and handle conflict in a positive manner. These are invaluable life skills that will put them on a path to success.


What is your favorite memory of volunteering with Centinela Youth Services?

My favorite memory was a tender moment between a family. The youth took complete ownership of her actions and acknowledged her parents’ actions were out of love and concern. The session was a complete breakthrough and very productive.


What has surprised you most about working with Centinela Youth Services? What do you wish other people knew about Centinela Youth Services?

The skills you learn to help others are life skills you can put to use in your daily life. Everyone is great to learn from. You just feel good being there. It's a win-win for everyone involved and the community at large.


What would you tell someone who is interested in volunteering with Centinela Youth Services?

Sign up! You won't regret it! The benefits to the community and for yourself are tremendous.


For more information about volunteering with Centinela Youth Services, please visit www.cys-la.org/mediators-con8



Tonie Neuwirth, Volunteer Awardee

Lake Avenue Community Foundation


What do you do at Lake Avenue Community Foundation (LACF)?

My title at LACF is Data Coordinator, where I process donations, prepare acknowledgements, select and correct mailing lists, and identify data for various reports about donations and donors (like who were the new donors for a recent summer campaign).


When and why did you first get involved with LACF?

In 2002 or 2003 LACF’s partner church, which shares offices with LACF, ran a capital campaign. Being newly retired, I was looking for an area of service and having a computer background, I volunteered for the campaign. There was a continued need at LACF, so I stayed on after the campaign.


What motivates you to stay involved at LACF?

It is hard to say what the motivation is totally, but it includes the ongoing need for what I do, the folks I work with (it is a “family”;), and being part of something bigger than myself. LACF is a small organization and we have had staff come and go. It has really been a privilege to provide a degree of constancy that enables the work in my area to continue and to support new staff where their need and my skills intersect. LACF has become a home away from home.


What is your favorite memory of volunteering with LACF?

It is hard to select a favorite memory. First, I would say that before important meetings or events we get together to pray, like when our Executive Director has an important lunch, meeting or tour of our programs. At one time, LACF included homeless outreach and I got to know some of our guests. Occasionally, some old friends stop by and it is always good to see them. Currently, all program areas work more closely together than before and there is more of a team feeling which is good. Just this last weekend some of us in the office got together for a potluck lunch and painting pictures with acrylic paints.

 

What has surprised you most about working with LACF? What do you wish other people knew about LACF?

The Lord keeps us humble at LACF. Finances are pretty lean at times and we have to belt tighten. It is no longer a surprise, but it was at the beginning. Our name currently includes the name of our church partner Lake Avenue Church. I would wish there was a way to clearly communicate we are a separate organization and we could use their direct support of our work.


What would you tell someone who is interested in volunteering with LACF?

There are many areas where people can serve, from administration to working in programs. If you want to be part of the tutoring program there are several areas you can serve other than tutoring, like helping with reading and enrichment programs. You can choose the age level you want to work with. You are not in this alone as there is training and support all along the way. If you want to be a mentor you will be matched with a student and have a mentor coach that will support you all along the way.


For more information about volunteering with Lake Avenue Community Foundation, please visit http://www.lakeavefoundation.org/vounteer/


Volunteer Spotlight: Foothill Unity Center & human-I-T

Posted by HALO Award on May 19, 2017 at 7:20 PM


This is the first installment of our "Volunteer Spotlight Series." In each installment, we will feature 2016 HALO Volunteer Awardees to highlight their unique impact and experience as volunteers, as well as the volunteer programs they serve.



Janet Wall, Foothill Unity Center Volunteer Awardee


What do you do at Foothill Unity Center?

I am the Volunteer Co-Chair of the annual Back to School event where over 1,000 children are furnished with clothing, underwear, socks, backpacks, school supplies, shoe vouchers, haircuts, vision screening and dental screening; I am a committee member of the Holiday Distribution where over 1500 children are given 2 toys, 2 articles of clothing and two books; I am on the Capital Campaign committee; I have been on the strategic planning committee and I have worked on the Mobile Dental Clinic.


When and why did you first get involved with Foothill Unity Center?

I first became involved with Foothill Unity Center when I retired in 2011. I got involved because I knew they had a food bank and thought it would be a good place to volunteer my time.


What motivates you to stay involved at Foothill Unity Center?

I am motivated to stay involved because I believe in the mission of Foothill Unity Center, I admire the way the staff and volunteers treat their clients with such dignity and I feel I am able to lend operational and technical expertise to help them work smarter not harder.


What is your favorite memory of volunteering with Foothill Unity Center?

My favorite memories all involve the look on the clients faces: The children when they see all that is available to them at Back to School event and the parents when they see the toys, clothing and books for their children at the Holiday Distribution.


What has surprised you most about working with Foothill Unity Center?

What do you wish other people knew about Foothill Unity Center? What has surprised me most is how hard the staff works and how dedicated they are to their clients. I am also surprised by the lack of technology that could make them even more efficient and able to better serve their clients - and how willing they are to adapt to new things when presented with ways to be more efficient. I wish others knew about all the services that Foothill Unity Center offers beyond food. Foothill Unity Center is an invaluable resource that so many people don't know about. If more knew about it, I believe more would support it.


What would you tell someone who is interested in volunteering with Foothill Unity Center?

I always tell anyone looking for a place to volunteer to check out Foothill Unity Center. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities available so there is something for everyone. I tell people that they will get far more out of the Foothill Unity Center experience than they will give. It is easy to get friends to join the events as they see how much joy I get from my experience with Foothill Unity Center.


For more information about volunteering at Foothill Unity Center, please visit foothillunitycenter.org/get-involved/other-ways-to-help/



Brandon Smith, human-I-T Volunteer Awardee


What do you do at human-I-T?

I am proudly managing outreach to prospective individual and business technology donors in order to repurpose their unwanted technology to help those in need. Our recipients include low-income families, veterans, persons with disabilities, and qualifying non-profits.


When and why did you first get involved with human-I-T?

I was first drawn to human-I-T when I had realized the tremendous gap between those that have access to technology and those that do not. On one side, it is a nuisance for a business to have older computers sitting around after an upgrade. On the other hand, you have low-income students that cannot do a history project because they do not have the internet or a disabled adult that cannot apply for a job because they do not have easy access to a computer. It only makes sense to connect our global e-waste problem with such an obvious solution.


What motivates you to stay involved at human-I-T?

The people we serve is what keeps me motivated here at human-I-T. Each individual item we take in is a step towards helping someone get a computer for the first time, and that keeps me going each and every day. Not only are we serving our recipients, but we are providing a valuable business service and keeping these items out of landfills. It's a 'Win' all the way around!


What is your favorite memory of volunteering with human-I-T?

My favorite memory at human-I-T is a memory I will never forget. It was my first distribution with human-I-T when we were handing out desktops to low-income families at a housing project in Los Angeles. There was one particular little girl that had burst into tears when she was handed her very first computer. That moment had left an impact on me that will always remind me to look out for my community and to give back whenever possible.


What has surprised you most about working with human-I-T?

What do you wish other people knew about human-I-T? The greatest surprise I've encountered at human-I-T is that most people do not know that repurposing technology is an option! Many still believe in the stigma that recycling is the best option when at the same time, hundreds of thousands of those less fortunate here in the US do not have home access to the internet. I wish others knew how easy, cost-effective, and impactful it is to repurpose their old technology versus grinding up recycling it.


What would you tell someone who is interested in volunteering with human-I-T?

I would first suggest that they come to a distribution event to see first-hand as our efforts make an impact on the local community. After they see the impression we are making, there are several great opportunities to volunteer here at human-I-T. Whether they are looking to break into IT and work with our processing and refurbishment teams or see how our donation outreach or social media are managed, we welcome everyone to join our growing family.


For more information about volunteering with human-I-T, please visit human-i-t.org/volunteer/