This blog post comes on the heels of National Volunteer Week. National Volunteer Week, a Points of Light initiative, is an opportunity to celebrate the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to come together to tackle tough challenges and build stronger, more resilient communities.
This year, we are choosing to highlight four Fíonta employees and let them describe, in their own words, what service means to them.
Kailee Quinn, School on Wheels
When you think of homelessness, you typically don’t think about the 2.5 million homeless children in the United States as well. Homelessness is a heartbreaking epidemic in Los Angeles and when I moved here I wanted to try and make at least a small impact by helping the children affected by it. School on Wheels provides academic tutoring to homeless children in Southern California. These children are bright, smart, beautiful people with so much potential, and the volunteer efforts of School on Wheels helps to encourage and inspire that potential; it has brought me so much joy to help embolden these kids in their academic lives.
Peggy Trant, Hylton Performing Arts Center
My family has always been interested in music and the arts, so I recently volunteered at the Hylton Performing Arts Center. I was the representative for the center at the 2018 Prince William County Family Expo. Hylton reaches out to all age groups to encourage them to engage in arts and music through education, performances, etc.
Katy Burns, Point in Time Count
On January 23, 2018, I joined a team of volunteers to perform the Point in Time count, which is intended to survey individuals experiencing homelessness on a single night in Washington, DC. US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that all major cities conduct this count every other year during the month of January. Our nation’s capital has elected to do the PIT every year. This year, 300 volunteers were spread around DC’s seven wards to comb the streets from 10pm-2am. Our goal, at the least, was to document every individual (location, identifying characteristics, types of belongings, etc.) that we encountered in our assigned zone. If we had the chance, we engaged with each person and asked a series of questions. The survey was designed to better understand why the individual was experiencing homelessness, how long they had been living on the streets, and what resources were needed to secure permanent supportive housing. The engagement factor and the data that’s collected during those conversations is so critical for organizations who support our homeless community. Each year, they need to reevaluate the resources that they offer to ensure that they’re serving the current population properly. I was amazed by how many people were open to the discussion and were willing to share their experience in such a vulnerable state. One common theme that I’ve heard over the years from people experiencing homelessness is that they feel invisible, that their humanity has been stripped from them. For most that night, it just took a “Hello, my name is Katy. Would you be willing to talk with me for a few minutes?” to open the door. I hope to partake in the count every year, if I’m able, to help improve the resources in DC, and to have a few good conversations with a few good people.
Karin Tracy, Kid City Hope Place
When I decided to search for a volunteer opportunity in my community (downtown Los Angeles), I used Idealist.org to help me find a match. Homelessness is a major issue in LA and there were a number of Skid Row nonprofits looking for volunteers. However, I was immediately struck by an opportunity with Kid City Hope Place. I’ve never volunteered with children or teens before and the idea of acting as a mentor to a high school senior during college applications seemed exciting and a bit scary! I’m well removed (like by decades) from college days so I knew there would be lots to learn. I was matched with a low-income, minority senior who is interested in the arts and communications. We work together weekly for a couple of hours: fall semester was focused on researching suitable options and completing the application process and spring semester has been all about scholarship essays and big, big life choices! I’m so proud of the hard work my student has put into this task and she’s now deciding between a handful of California universities! I’m hoping she won’t be too embarrassed next year when I visit her on campus 🙂
Find a volunteer opportunity in your community on Idealist.org!