April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month, which is a time to celebrate all the incredible individuals and groups who make an impact at Waypoint. Last year around this time, our volunteer program was at a standstill as we were navigating the spread of COVID-19 and determining how to safely continue delivering our programs and services to those in need in our community. I am incredibly grateful for the understanding our volunteers showed as we canceled volunteer shifts and continued to push back a return to volunteering, not knowing what the next few months would bring us.
When we sent out an email to our supporters letting them know that our facilities would be closed and all volunteer opportunities would be placed on-hold for the time being, I never would have imagined that I would still be working remotely over a year later. While 2020 brought about hardship and tragedy, it also brought about new opportunities and learning experiences that I know have made Waypoint and our volunteer program stronger.
Despite closing our doors to the public, all of our programs continued to operate. Because of this, we needed to find innovative ways to offer our services and continue to engage our community of supporters. One volunteer opportunity that remained available throughout most of the pandemic was cleaning and sanitizing at our Madge Philips Center Shelter. While this was always an available volunteer opportunity, it became even more important as the individuals and families staying at Madge Phillips were sheltering in place. In order to keep clients and staff healthy, we recruited volunteers to come into the shelter each day to clean and sanitize common areas to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Having volunteers support this important role allowed staff to focus on other pressing needs of clients, such as securing jobs or permanent housing.
By the summer of 2020, we knew we needed support with our Domestic Violence Program and reached out to our current volunteers. Most were eager to start volunteering again and returned to medical advocacy over the phone instead of meeting in-person at the hospital. As the vaccination became more widely available, some of our volunteers felt comfortable returning to in-person advocacy, which is a huge piece of the Domestic Violence Program.
In the fall, we started to embrace the idea of virtual volunteering, bringing on remote interns with our Domestic Violence Program and our Resource Development & Marketing team. While some of their support was limited, these individuals were able to make a huge impact supporting our clients and programs (thank you Cecilia, Payton, and Liv!). As we became more familiar with virtual volunteering, we decided it was time to move our training for our Domestic Violence Program virtually, conducting four different sessions over the past two months to train new volunteers in medical advocacy, legal advocacy, support group facilitation, and financial literacy. We are excited to continue to utilize virtual and hybrid models to recruit and train even more volunteers for our programs.
Because we started to embrace virtual volunteers, we are planning to bring on additional interns this summer to support our Human Resources team, Resource Development & Marketing, Accounting, and Information Technology! The ability to offer hybrid internships will allow us to effectively move our mission forward while providing experience to students and keeping everyone safe and healthy. We are hopeful that by the fall, we will be able to return to some semblance of normalcy with our volunteer program, where all programs will have opportunities available again.
As you can see, volunteers have and always will be an essential part of the Waypoint team. Without their support, we could not inspire nearly 7,500 individuals to move forward in their lives each and every year. As we are moving toward the second half of 2021, I continue to reflect on the past year and how truly grateful I am for the continued support Waypoint receives from the community. Whether you are volunteering, donating, or sharing Waypoint’s mission, you are making a difference, and your support truly changes lives. THANK YOU!
Brittany Appleton, Event & Volunteer Manager
The month of May is nationally recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month, meaning many resources are being shared regarding ways to find mental health support, ending stigma, and bringing awareness to illnesses that millions of people live with every day. However, few of these resources focus on the ways mental health interacts with other issues, such as the homeless.
Waypoint is nothing without our community. For over 125 years, the community has been the backbone of the critical work we do in order to provide proactive resources and research-based solutions for those in crisis.