It is volunteer appreciation month and as much as I wish I could spoil my volunteers. It just isn’t in the budget.
I would like to express that I am truly grateful for them and their love and support.
Many of them have been with me from the beginning and several have joined in recently. Some have left or are leaving for college, but each volunteer has found a special place in my heart.
Even though All in Need, Family Support (AiN) is 100% volunteer ran. I often forget that I too am a volunteer. I look at the other volunteers that give their time at AiN and are blown away by the time, love, and dedication they give to AiN and the families we serve. Of course, I look at it as the founder of AiN, but also as a mother of a child with special needs. If only I could have found the support and love I see in AiN volunteers when my family really needed the respite.
At AiN we require each volunteer to go through a background check, TB testing, CPR/First Aid Certification, and AiN Training. But as a mother of a child with special needs I have a tendency to look for my “top five wish list” when I meet a new volunteer.
My wish list for a supportive caregiver:
5. Training, let’s face it I wanted someone who was trained in CPR/First Aid, knew what type of activities to do with a child who needed support in gross motor and fine motor how to correct behaviors in a firm but loving way, someone who could model speech. (in other words I wanted that person to join us in hours of therapies.)
4. Someone who wouldn’t flinch at the “bad” stuff. (You know how it is, your sweet little angel throwing a punch, running out into incoming traffic, that meltdown in the grocery store.)
3. Someone who can see our goals and celebrate in the small stuff. (I remember being able to finally pee without my son by my side and let me tell you washing my hands without a child at my side was so relaxing.)
2. Someone who would ask questions. (I don’t expect everyone to understand my son, heck after 10 years of him. I still don’t understand him. My philosophy: Don’t be ashamed to ask. You will not learn and be able to teach others about disabilities if you don’t understand something and you aren’t willing to ask)
1. Someone who would love my son. (I want someone who can see my son for who he is, someone who can cry with me when he isn’t doing well, and someone who laughs with me about the silly things)
We at AiN have witnessed children growing and maturing over the years. We have heard parent’s stories, felt their pain, and seen the excitement when a child achieves something. In other words, my volunteers have grown to love these families and I see their love each time they show up and dedicate their time to working with the children at AiN. I cannot help,but wonder if these volunteers were in my life when I needed help. Where would I be today? I am guessing I would have never felt the overwhelming need to make sure other families didn’t suffer like our’s did. This is what I see in my volunteers. I see that each one of them gives families hope! The hope that I so desperately needed several years ago.
When asked: “Do you see how your relationship with the children you work with has grown since you first became an AiN volunteer?”
Deb, our RN, answers, “I have grown to love each of our children and their families and look forward to being with them each month.”
Andrea, a high school volunteer, answers, “Yes, I have definitely seen my relationship with the children I work with grow since I first became an AiN volunteer. When I first started volunteering I didn’t really know how to interact with children who had special needs. My usual jokes and friendly greetings simply were not working. Slowly, I began to change my tactics. I saw Yaakov playing with Jenga blocks in the corner of the room one day and I asked him how high he could stack the blocks before they would topple over. He smiled at me playfully and immediately began to place more and more blocks on top of each other. By merely approaching him in a different way, he started to look at me as a friend, instead of an intruding stranger. Every week from then on, as my face became more familiar, more and more of the kids started to look me in the eyes, see me as a friend, smile at me, talk to me, and trust me. Now, I feel much more comfortable interacting with the children at AiN events and I feel like they are also comfortable approaching me and asking me questions, and that makes me really happy and grateful because to me, that means they trust me enough to let me into their lives as a friend. “
As AiN grows and we are partnering with other agencies that support children with special needs. I have had the opportunity to meet high school children who can share their gifts to enrich the lives of the children with special needs. It is those young volunteers that will truly touch the lives of our community that already show a heart of pure love and dedication that I myself only found in the last 7 years.
This isn’t just a tribute to the volunteers that we already have or have had, but to the volunteers that will make their way into our lives.
One is not born into the world to do everything but to do something.
–Henry David Thoreau, poet, writer, philosopher
If you are interested in volunteering for AiN, please contact Autumn.