Volunteerism brought into focus every November

Family Volunteer Day is Sunday November 22; a day to celebrate the power of families volunteering together, supporting their neighborhoods, communities and the world.

Points of Light created the day 22 years ago to showcase the benefits of volunteering. It is believed that families volunteering together not only address community social problems, but provides quality time, strengthens family communication and provides opportunities for family members to be role models.

Contact Ministries of Central Illinois

For Jim Pauley and his wife Debbie, this family commitment manifests itself with Contact Ministries of Central Illinois where they serve as community and connection outreach volunteers.

“Actually, Debbie is a fulltime volunteer,” says Jim. “We have been actively working in the homeless community for the past 13 years. It’s only been in the past year and a half that we’ve partnered with Contact Ministries.”

Jim explains that Contact Ministries is a women and children’s shelter that is divided into two parts.

“The first part is the emergency shelter, which houses 34 beds, 10 pack-n-plays and five emergency mats,” he explains. “The women and children that stay there can stay up to two weeks. Extensions are available on a case-to-case basis. They are served a hot meal and have access to laundry facilities.

“The second part is a transitional shelter for women and children who are homeless,” Jim continues. “They can stay up to six months and have the opportunity to receive case management services and must attend daily life skill classes. Contact Ministries provides daycare accommodations in a positive learning environment while mothers attend classes. While at the shelter, the mothers are saving their money and learning new skills to help prepare for independent living. There are a total of nine private rooms for homeless women and their children.”

Volunteer responsibilities

Debbie’s duties are meal planning for the emergency shelter, shopping for food items at the local food bank and preparing two meals a week for both shelters. Jim assists his wife with meal preparations, public speaking when the need arises to help raise funds for the organization. And his favorite is delivering a motivational speech during dinner three times a month.

Volunteer opportunities are explained on the website (www.contactministries.com). “Whether you are a member of a group that would like to take on a large project such as painting or mentoring our mothers, or if you would just like to read a book to a child, we certainly have a project for you.”

At any age

Charlotte Hardman has volunteered for ElderHelpers for the past five years, since she was 16.

“I’m a gentle, easy going young person with a lot of drive to help others and a willingness to partake in almost anything. If you can think it up, I can give it my best shot,” says Charlotte.

One of her duties is to care for her father who suffers from dementia and emphysema.

“The years spent looking after him have helped me develop a certain maturity, sense of responsibility and patience,” she says. “I’m ready and more than willing to not only help an elderly member of society with day-to-day activities and things that they struggle with, but to be a friend and to listen, appreciate and enjoy our time together.”

Charlotte’s profile says she will help shop, clean, cook and garden as well as read and entertain.

The ElderHelpers website (www.ElderHelpers.org) offers volunteers a place to sign up and clients a place to list their needs. Then the volunteer and client are matched taking in to consideration need and location.

“Anyone can get involved,” says Jim. “My suggestion for young families is to allow their children to help as long as they understand what is going on. They can experience different environments and situations. Volunteering can be a very rewarding experience, no matter what your age.”

How to Help

Thinking about volunteering as a family or on your own? There are certainly a lot of possibilities.

Volunteer at the local animal shelter, deliver Meals on Wheels or help build a house with Habitat for Humanity. Contact your local nursing home and find out if they can use help in activities or visit with residents who have no family.

No time to commit? You can still help by donating to Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, for example. They accept new and in-good-condition furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances for resale to the public. Proceeds go toward building projects.

Goodwill, Volunteers of America and other charitable retail shops can always use in-good-condition clothing and household items. Children can become involved by going through their own clothes and toys and making donations of items they no longer want or need.

Volunteer at a hospital or museums, offer office support for a non-profit organization, or mentor at your local elementary school. Even flower arrangers are needed to create bouquets for those in health care facilities.

For a complete list of Illinois volunteer opportunities check the www.VolunteerMatch.org website.

In reality it means a lot more to the volunteer and the people they are helping. Just ask Jim, Debbie and Charlotte.