Interviewed by Zach Huey for The Island Connection
Editor’s Note: Volunteer Spotlight is a new column in The Island Connection highlighting members of the community who give their time to help others. If you know of a volunteer who deserves the spotlight email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was born and raised in Charleston and lived here almost my whole life. I moved out to Johns Island in 2004. I enjoy a number of hobbies including scrapbooking, visiting lighthouses, and going on adventures with my grandkids. In my working life I was an office manager and buyer and later worked at Belks until I hit social security age.
After retiring, I had much more free time. The first hobby I became invested in was scrapbooking. I made one scrapbook I was particularly proud of and that was very involved. I showed it to my oldest son and he said “Mom you have entirely too much free time.”
I still love scrapbooking, but in a way he was right. I am someone who really enjoys being around other people so I looked around the community for places I could get involved. While I was searching for things to do in the area, I came across an article advertising the quilting class held at Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach every Thursday.
When I came to the Outreach, before I got into the room, the volunteer coordinator got to talking to me and before I knew it I was helping in the food room, teaching the children in the Yes I Can! After school program, providing childcare and volunteering for the Yes I Can! Summer Camp. I got so involved I never made it to the quilting class I originally came to Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach to attend.
Despite never joining the quilters, volunteering with Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach has been very rewarding to me. I even enjoy getting involved outside of the traditional volunteer opportunities. On behalf of an organization I am a part of during Christmas time I go out and collect donations for the annual Christmas drive. I buy clean underwear and socks for the families who use Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach services. I take the socks and underwear and bundle them in a newspaper bag for the clients.
It is also interesting to volunteer here because of the eclectic people. You meet people of all different shapes, sizes and backgrounds. A good story of the connections you make is the time when I ran into a young lady I helped tutor through Yes I Can! Summer Camp while at the mall. She walked by me with a group of her friends and we said hey to each other. All of her friends asked “Why are you saying hey to that lady?” to which she replied, “She is okay, she does the summer camp”.
What I believe has the greatest impact on a person’s life is showing you care; going that extra mile to help a person in need. One example from my time volunteering is working with one young boy that has a learning disability. We became so close through our tutoring that he invited me to a school-hosted Thanksgiving dinner and I served as a chaperone on some of his field trips. It is rewarding to work with the children who often times may not get time to be a kid otherwise. One young lady was the eldest of her siblings, and once her parents both got jobs, she took over primary care for her siblings. She was highly motivated to learn, and I enjoyed helping her during the Yes I Can! After School program donating some time for her to be a student.
To someone who wants to volunteer I would say that it is an interesting place. I have been volunteering myself for ten years now, and unlike my job, where I would have days where I did not want to go in, I am always ready to come in and help at Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach. It really is a fun place to volunteer where you never know what to expect. Along with visiting lighthouses and playing with my grandkids it is something I plan to do for a long time.”