Volunteer Spotlight Series: Elizabeth House
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