We Love Our Volunteers!

April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, but we hope our amazing volunteers feel appreciated 365 days a year!

As a nonprofit, Harbor House relies on volunteers to supplement the important work our staff is doing. More than 1,500 people gave of their time and talents last year. Altogether, volunteers helped out 10,467 hours in a single year!

Volunteers working in direct service to our clients must complete the same level of training that our staff does. These volunteers might work in the emergency shelter, answer hotline calls, serve as foster grandparents in childcare, or assist with support groups.

Individuals and groups can also sign up to help out one time or take on regular tasks. These opportunities include serving on event planning committees, helping at fundraising and awareness events, performing administrative duties in the office, serving a meal in shelter, or doing what is needed around campus like landscaping, painting, sorting donations, or building furniture.

Junior League of Greater Orlando (JLGO) has been a tremendous help to Harbor House, having chosen our agency as an organization of choice the last two years. The group has sent volunteers to Walk a Mile in Her Shoes and the Paws for Peace Walk and has helped with special events at our emergency shelter, including the Gifts of Hope shop for kids at Christmas and Easter egg dying and hunting in the spring.

We asked JLGO about their experience volunteering at Harbor House. Here are their answers:

Why did you choose Harbor House for your service? We all wanted to work with an organization that is helping those in need in our community. Harbor House helps so many each year overcome difficult situations, and we are honored to play a small role in helping the residents feel more at home while they are staying there.

Favorite activity and why? We can all agree that our favorite activity has been the holiday gift shop for Gifts of Hope. Helping the kids pick out a gift for their mom is always so much fun. To see how much thought they put into picking out the gift and then wrapping it really reminds us all what the holiday season is about – giving, not receiving.

Special moment or event you were involved in? The Easter Egg Hunt last year was a special event for us. Having multiple kids tell us that they’ve always wanted to color Easter eggs but were never allowed reminded us not to take things for granted. We were so happy to be able to do a fun activity with the kids and watch them decorate (and eat!) all of their Easter eggs. Some of the moms stopped by to join in on the fun too!

Advice for other groups? Have fun and enjoy your time with those staying at Harbor House – the donation of your time means a lot to them.

One individual who has made an impact this year is Jessica Streifer. While pursuing her bachelor’s degree in human services from Southern New Hampshire University, Jessica has volunteered more than 125 hours at Harbor House. She tutors children after school, plays games with them, and reads to them. She is also starting an English as a Second Language class in the shelter.

Here’s what Jessica had to say about her volunteer experience with Harbor House:

Why do you volunteer at Harbor House? I volunteer at Harbor House to gain experience. After completing my degree, I hope to pursue a career helping survivors of sex trafficking. Many people who end up in sex trafficking are from a household with domestic violence and/or were abused themselves and are then abused by their traffickers. Through my volunteering at Harbor House, I can observe and learn from the advocates and survivors of all ages. I hope to use the knowledge and experience I gain here to help survivors in the future.

What is most rewarding for you? The most rewarding part of my experience has been watching the children grow and thrive. Their first week at daycare, the little ones are often withdrawn and nervous. They may come in with negative behaviors and attitudes. It’s wonderful to watch them become more confident in themselves and have fun. They start to help each other, share, and make friends.

Favorite moment or memory? My favorite moment is when the children get to know you and they see you for the first time that day. Their faces light up, they get a huge smile, and they give you a big hug. Their faces make it all worthwhile.

This is what our staff had to say about Jessica: “Jessica is a model volunteer. She is on time, dependable, and totally engaged with the children the entire time she is in the center. She truly is interested in our mission and wants to learn about the effects of trauma on children.”

These are just a couple of examples of the impact volunteers are having at Harbor House. They mean so much to our clients and staff. If you are interested in volunteering on your own or as part of a group, pl ease contact us at volunteer@harborhousefl.com.