Volunteering at Outreach

Learn About our “Typical” Volunteer Staff Members

What prompts people to become volunteer staff members at Outreach? For Lanette, it was the result of a search. “I’m new on my journey,” explains Lanette, who helps with organize and manage events at Outreach. “I just found Jesus in the last year, and I was looking for a way to give back. I thought about going on a mission trip, but somehow I felt like there might be a way to make a difference closer to home.” Lanette picked up an information card about Outreach at her church and contacted the group to learn more. It turned out that just a few days earlier, Outreach has posted that they needed a volunteer staff member to help with events. It seemed like a perfect fit for Lanette, and she felt that a higher power had “made the match.”

Working with Outreach has special meaning for Lanette. “One of my daughter’s teenage friends is frequently homeless,” shares Lanette. “Her mom will get on her feet and then fall under unhealthy influences, and she and her daughter will find themselves without a home again. I know from watching them just how important the work of Outreach is.”

Lanette is one of more than 90 Outreach volunteer staff members, all of whom donate their time and talents for different reasons and in different ways. There really is no “typical” type of person or role. Barb has been a volunteer staff member for “more years than I can remember,” and she prefers to work behind the scenes, providing administrative support. “I’m not really a face-to-face person,” Barb says. “I know that I can make a difference by helping the organization operationally.” Erin, on the other hand, thrives on making in-person connections with Outreach youth. “I saw a fictional TV show about youth homelessness, and I went online to learn what the facts were about the problem in Central Indiana. That’s where I learned about Outreach. The TV show really affected me and made me want to help. Outreach has given me a way to do that.” Erin volunteers at the Tuesday morning drop. She likes the intensity of working directly with youth. “I like that the relationship continues. They’re my community.” Deb, who serves at the hospitality desk on Fridays during the drop, falls somewhere in between. “I have a volunteer position at another organization. At Outreach, I can still work with youth, but in a role that’s less intense than what I do with the other group.”

The paid staff at Outreach truly appreciate the work of their volunteer counterparts. Mike Elliott, Director of Development, explains, “Our volunteer staff are exactly that – staff; the only difference is that they generously donate their time. Each one of them is here with a purpose, and they contribute vital skills that make the work of the whole organization possible. One example of that is Margot, who assists with our marketing efforts and our newsletter. Margot is all about the details, and she keeps me on track.” Kristin Fuller, Vice-President of Operations, echoes Mike’s sentiments. “Our volunteer staff is absolutely necessary to the systems and processes of Outreach. We can do so much more because of the additional skill sets that they bring to the organization.” Lydia Speler, Community Involvement Coordinator, is one of several paid staff who started as a volunteer staff member. She recognizes how important long-term volunteer staff are to Outreach. “I want to give a shout out to Barb (a volunteer staff member). I have always admired her humble approach, and I learned a tremendous amount from her, as both a paid and volunteer staff member.”

Case manager Anthony Baker describes the volunteer staff as “incredible, indispensable. They take the load off of us (paid staff) on so many things. People who come in here every week, on time, ready, humble – that’s a story that interests me. I want to know even more about what motivates them.” Ryan Hayes, a former volunteer staff member who is now an Outreach Worker, underlined Anthony’s comment. “I really appreciate that volunteer staff come in week after week. That consistency is so valuable to our youth.” Devin Miller, Group Facilitator, appreciates what he has learned from volunteer staff.  Miller explains that he didn’t know anything about cooking before he started at Outreach, and it turned out that he was put in charge of serving breakfast. He is grateful to the volunteer staff for helping him learn how to carry out that responsibility. As he puts it, “At home, I’m practically barred from the kitchen, but the volunteer staff at Outreach taught me to how to make breakfast for a center full of youth!”

Felecia Hawkins, who manages the High School G.O.A.L. program, points out that the volunteer staff’s commitment of time also has tremendous financial value to the organization. “We’re looking into using an app to help volunteer staff track their hours, so that we can put a dollar figure on their donated time. That figure can’t ever capture the full value of what our volunteer staff bring to Outreach, but it is a good benchmark to share with donors and funders.”

The appreciation goes both ways. Melissa, who learned about Outreach from a billboard, started out working the Tuesday morning drop. “I was making eggs,” she says. “Now I’m creating storytelling videos, hearing stories from the perspective of our youth. I appreciate the chance to be involved, and I appreciate the way the paid staff always care about the volunteer staff. They are always ready for us and have work for us to do. It feels good to be part of this group.”

Story by Outreach Resident Writer, Gigi Nicholas

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