Monday, August 8, 2011

Visting UPLIFT: Hope In Action

There is a big difference between talking about something and actually doing it. Last Tuesday we volunteered at a church in downtown Austin that provides a food pantry, as well as case management services and other basic needs assistance to people who need it. It was fantastic!

I have always loved volunteering, but I was super nervous about this particular morning because I hadn’t ever volunteered in this way before. I was worried that I might get in the way more than I would help, and I was nervous about meeting new people. If I had listened to the fears that were rolling around inside of me that morning I would not have volunteered at all. As it turned out, I was able to meet some of the most amazing, charitable individuals; people that are willing to give some of their time and love to those in need every week.

I was especially touched by the attention that was given to every child who came to the church that morning. In the storage area where the volunteers keep shelves full of food, carts of hygiene items, and bags full of other miscellaneous supplies for those who need it, there is a special box devoted to collecting toys and stuffed animals for all the children who come in to the church. Bobbi, the woman who we coordinated with to volunteer that day, keeps a watchful eye on the entrances to the church for all the little ones that enter. The minute she spots a child she comes back to her box of goodies and picks out a toy especially for them. This alone was heart-melting for me to witness because I have four younger siblings that mean the world to me. To know that there is someone else who shares that same kind of love and care with children that aren’t even a part of her own family brought a smile to my heart. I was thrilled too when Bobbi, in her own words, asked if I would “like the pleasure” of picking out a toy and giving it to a little girl who came in with her mother that morning. I walked back to the cardboard treasure box and dug around in it until I found a little, down-soft teddy bear that was fully equipped with angel wings and a halo. The little girl was probably about 3 years old and only came up to her mother’s knee. She was very shy so when I walked over to her she was hiding behind her mom’s legs, but even so I could see the grin that spread across her face when I handed her the toy.

At Aunt Bertha, we want to empower people to help each other, and help themselves. I research programs for Aunt Bertha and try to write the benefit, eligibility, and application information in a way that will be the most helpful for our visitors. I have been writing these descriptions hoping that I was doing so in a way that would enable people to get the help they need. But, until we volunteered, I had never gone out to meet and talk with the people that we are trying to reach. It was inspiring to finally go out and volunteer because I was able to meet some of the people who are regularly out there helping, talking with, and listening to people in need. I will definitely be going back, and I whole-heartedly encourage anyone reading this to take the leap and volunteer if you have the time. Remember, even if all you do is smile next time you make eye-contact with someone or take an extra minute to really listen to them, it can help.

Lyn is the lead technical writer at Aunt Bertha. She is a student at Austin Community College trying to choose between Kinesiology, Elementary Education, or Art/Design, if she could have a hybrid of the three that would be perfect.

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