Each year the month of April is recognized as National Volunteer Month, giving us a chance to celebrate the impact of volunteer service in our community. The mission of Catholic Charities is made possible through the hands and hearts of more than 2,200 volunteers. These selfless individuals have logged 4,971 hours of service in the last year (April 2020–April 2021). By giving their time and energy in service to others, we have a bridge to our community, and we are so grateful.
Volunteers tackle society’s greatest challenges and build stronger communities by being a force that transforms the world. This month, and all months throughout the year, we want to say “thank you” to our volunteers who lend their time, talent, and voice to make a difference in our community.
Support Victims of Global Disruption and Justice for Immigrants
Volunteers support our clients at every step of the resettlement process. Even before clients arrive in the United States, volunteer engagement is crucial! Volunteers help to furnish and prepare an apartment for arriving refugee clients, greet refugee families at the airport with signs and smiling faces, and provide long term support through cultural navigation.
“One of our client’s had an early morning surgery she needed to get to, and while the case manager assisted the client, their volunteer supported the family from home. She took the family shopping, brought them snacks, and continued to check in on them after the surgery was over. While the client was recovering, the volunteer helped with cooking and cleaning, and took the family to the park so our client could rest. Our client later mentioned how she considered the volunteer to be like a sister and was incredibly grateful for the support the volunteer provided.”
– Fowzia Abdulle, Case Manager Supervisor, Catholic Charities of Oregon
A special note of thanks from our Refugee Services program to our volunteers: “This past year we have been amazed at the way our volunteers have stayed engaged through the COVID-19 pandemic and supported our services. Volunteers have supported furniture donation coordination, helped us get food to refugee families, and continued to work with their Cultural Navigator client matches. Volunteers have been especially helpful by assisting clients in accessing COVID-19-related resources (like face masks or gloves), combatting misinformation about COVID-19, and navigating vaccine clinics alongside our clients. This is absolutely vital help, as refugees have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”
Those with legal backgrounds, such as law students and attorneys, focus on casework and preparing applications for submission to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or to Immigration Court. Volunteer attorneys can also participate in our pro bono program, where we provide additional training and support as they represent clients that we do not have capacity to serve. Volunteers without legal experience provide essential behind-the-scenes help, from filing, to preparing forms, to compiling resources for our clients while learning more about various immigration benefits. This greatly increases our staff’s capacity to serve clients. Finally, those with Spanish skills who are unable to commit to as many volunteer hours are able to participate in our Remote Translator program, translating documents for clients as needed.
A special note of thanks from our Immigration Legal Services program to our volunteers: “We are most thankful for the flexibility, patience, and dedication to the work that our volunteers and interns have shown. It was a difficult year, but we are so thankful for all the wonderful support we continue receiving from our volunteers and interns. Their dedication allows to serve more of our clients that we would be unable to help otherwise.”
Support and Strengthen Families in Need
Our volunteers help our Resident Services program by supporting our resident workshops, providing tutoring support, and helping us bring and distribute items and donations to the residents. During the COVID-19 pandemic volunteers have been instrumental to our residents providing donations and pre-prepared activities and material to distribute to the young people that were academic and fun.
“Volunteers prepared activities, like a science lesson or art projects, and bags including toys and games, and dropped them off for the young people to collect. Those donations allowed us to provide roughly 50 young people with various activities, which helped them stay engaged while we socially distance.”
– Claire McIlwain, Resident Services Coordinator II – McCoy Village/Children’s Programming, Catholic Charities of Oregon
A special note of thanks from our Resident Services program to our volunteers: “Volunteers provide essential academic and social emotional support to young people and residents. Because of our volunteers, over the past four years, we have maintained a 90-100% high school completion rate among our seniors. And, during the past year, our volunteers provided tutoring support to 8 of our student residents. None of our programs would be possible without volunteers.”
Help to Feed and Provide Shelter
Food Response Network
Having volunteers has allowed us to build a robust food pantry program, in which we provide food to 70 families a week at the door. Through our USDA food box program, volunteers help us reach around 1,000 families per week in Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, and Marion Counties.
“When I was managing the pantry myself, it was taking so long to hand out food that people would leave the line. With the help of volunteers, things are so much faster, now we can serve more people faster.”
– Joseph Cruz, Food Response Network Coordinator, Catholic Charities of Oregon
A special note of thanks from the Food Response Network to our volunteers: “Our volunteers have been incredible. They are a steady and robust volunteer group that have been incredibly reliable, consistent and willing to be communicative. Especially considering the barriers that the COVID-19 pandemic has created. We really ramped up our services in the food team because of COVID and the way that COVID has impacted people financially. In order to build this out, we have relied heavily on volunteer support and they have delivered.”
Volunteers are a critical part of our Housing Transitions Program, specifically their assistance in providing our Wednesday meals. Our student interns work alongside the staff and perform client case management support roles such as data entry, drop-in support, and limited intakes. Student interns, when ready, can also work with clients on other housing application paperwork and applying for benefits as appropriate.
“Our clients appreciate that they are seen. People experiencing homelessness are often treated as if invisible. For a volunteer to go to the effort to provide a meal or other donation helps the clients we serve to feel a part of the community.”
– Victoria Waldrep, Housing Transitions Program Supervisor, Catholic Charities of Oregon
A special note of thanks from HTP to our volunteers: “The sudden surge of meals has been an absolute blessing to not only our clients, but so helpful for our staff. The student interns have helped us increase our capacity and coverage for our drop-in center. It is so exciting to see them learn the profession and to experience the “real” world of our work.”
Volunteers enrich the lives of our clients at Kenton Women’s Village, bringing joy, encouragement, and support. Volunteers provide cooking classes to the villagers, help with maintenance around the village, gardening projects yielding fresh food for the villagers, monthly food bank deliveries, and putting together baskets to meet the needs of new women moving into the village.
“Our volunteers allow our clients to be heard and validated and listened to. They treat our clients with respect and dignity, uplifting them and giving them hope and a sense of empowerment.”
– Bernadette Stetz, Village Manager, Kenton Women’s Village, Catholic Charities of Oregon
A special note of thanks from Kenton Women’s Village to our volunteers: “Our volunteers come with enthusiastic energy, selfless intent, and an eagerness to serve. We are most grateful for our volunteers’ readiness to adapt to changing circumstances, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and their interest in interacting with our clients and helping when they see a need.”
Our amazing group of volunteers assist in our work to provide financial coaching and education, asset building and emergency financial assistance by walking alongside our clients encouraging accountability, relationship, and trust to help our clients meet their self-defined financial goals. Our volunteers come to us with the heart of a teacher and we provide the training and resources to ensure they are confident in providing sound financial advice around savings, budgeting, debt reduction and understanding credit. Talking about finances is uncomfortable at times, but as the relationships that our volunteers and clients have grows, clients are able to build emergency funds, understand where their money is going every month, and set and reach their financial goals.
“My husband and I met with Ron, a volunteer financial coach, a few years ago to see if we could (finally) have a consistent and positive dialog about our finances. We met with Ron about 3 or 4 times and during these meetings my husband and I were able to agree on how much money we wanted in our “emergency fund,” a monthly amount to put into our retirement accounts, and we reviewed our monthly budget. Our meeting with Ron left me feeling heard when I voiced my stress over our budget and gave my husband a non-confrontive way of looking at our spending and lack of savings. It has made a huge difference in our finances, relationship with each other, and relationship to our money.”
– Client of Save First Financial Wellness
A special note of thanks from Save First Financial Wellness to our volunteers: “The switch from in-person services and meetings to virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a tough change for clients and volunteers alike. We are incredibly thankful for the perseverance of our coaches, and the additional help they were willing to give to others struggling more than themselves. This included being available for our COVID-19 coaching hotline, and feedback from some of our oldest volunteers on how the volunteer program could be even better.”
Our volunteers make a difference and create healthy communities in vibrant, participatory societies. Thank you for all that you do for Catholic Charities, our clients, and in service to others. You #Inspire Us.