Volunteer Opportunities Helping Children and teens
Three years ago, I walked into a local first grade class to meet with Jasmine for the first time. As I sat down at the half-circle table, the teacher introduced me to a bounding young lady with light brown hair and very curious sparkling green eyes. I already knew that Jasmine struggled with keeping up. As a first grader, she had not even mastered reading at a kindergarten level. I have been paired with many children over the years and sometimes you just know, “This child is going to be a blessing to be around.”
Jasmine sits down next to me.
I pull out 3 beginning reader books and ask her, “Which book would you like to read today?” Jasmine tucks her head and tells me that she doesn’t like to read. No problem, I’ve been here before. I pick up If My Dog Marley Could Talk and began reading aloud. Two pages into the story the wiggles begin. By page four Jasmine was hanging upside down in her chair, but I could tell she was still listening. We get to the end of the book and she says “One day I hung my head out the car window like Marley. I didn’t like it.”
Now that was promising. She was listening.
It’s been right at 3 years since the day Jasmine with her curious, sparkling eyes sat next to me in room 106. Since that time, Jasmine is not only calmer but is also a much better reader. She still teases me that she doesn’t like to read, but my hope is that one day she will say that she loves to read. Now in 3rd grade, Jasmine has made steady gains each year and this year alone has seen dramatic improvements. In just a few months, she surpassed her expected reading growth for the entire school year by 1½ times and is now reading at grade level. I love working with Jasmine. I love listening to this young lady read. It will be sad not seeing Jasmine each week and being able to see her continued progress.
But I know I will see her again soon, and I am sure she will not only be reading at grade level, but this young lady will surpass expectations. Cultivate a child’s love for reading and they can go anywhere.
– RSVP Reading Buddy Volunteer
Volunteer Opportunities Helping Families
It had been a long struggle since the divorce. For 2 very long years, David has tried to gain custody of his daughter. Abigail… that’s her name, the apple of his eye, the reason he makes the long commute back and forth from north Missouri to Springfield. It has been a bigger financial strain than he had imagined. He must move to Springfield. It is inevitable. That’s ok, work hasn’t been steady up North. At least he will be closer to his daughter and have a better chance of regaining custody.
David rented a small trailer and packed up everything he owned; a dining room table he found at a flea market, a couch he was given from a family member, his tools for work and one of the most important things, a brand new big girl bed for his daughter. He saved every penny for that new bed, but Abigail was his baby and he couldn’t wait until she could sleep in it.
The new apartment wasn’t anything fancy, but it was warm and clean. David felt it was a safe place to raise his daughter. Her new bed fit perfectly in the one bedroom apartment. The pink ruffles on the pillowcases from the thrift store and matching comforter made it fit for a princess. Fit for his Abigail.
Three days into his new life, David came home to the broken glass of his front window. As he stepped into the apartment, he realized that he was not the only one who had made himself at home that day. He went room to room to see what was taken. His tools…all his tools, gone, which meant that he was not able to start the new construction job he had lined out for Monday. David felt his hope slip away.
When David walked into our office, he didn’t know how he would get work, or fight for his daughter, or find reliable daycare when he wins custody of his daughter….because that is something he believed wholeheartedly would happen.
We listened to his story. We gave him reliable resources, and we can’t wait to hear the outcome of his story. Life may have knocked him down, but you can’t keep men like David down for long.
We may never know his outcome. That is the reality of referral services. But I can say he left Child Care Aware with hope in his eyes and a new determination in his step.
– Child Care Aware of Southern Missouri Employee
Volunteer Opportunities Helping Homeless Women
Her hair is disheveled and her blue eyeliner is thick, widely beyond her eyelid. Her clothes don’t fit quite right, a shirt that is too small, pants that hang too low. At the surface, she looks a mess but underneath, amidst the chaos in her mind, she really is trying to look nice. It matters to her how she looks.
She is standing on the street, trying to get away from the drama at the day shelter. Her hands quiver, it’s hard to light a cigarette when the anxiety is so high. Her turquoise glitter nails are chipped and short as she flips the lighter several times. The realization that she is homeless sinks in deep. Not only that, she’s been homeless for awhile now.
She was living with some friends, struggling to get her mental and physical health under control and save some money for her own place. But there were drugs, drugs everywhere. She couldn’t stay there. She found Safe to Sleep in the heat of the summer. It would be for a few days, she thought. Just enough time to find someone else to live with.
The cigarette won’t light, just dangles awkwardly from her mouth as her thoughts run wild. She can’t remember if she had an appointment with her caseworker today, or was that tomorrow? She needs to go to the doctor, but she lost her phone again. It’s been three months without her meds. She left them when she moved. They are gone. Her mind is closing in on her, thoughts move through her brain like molasses one day and like a rollercoaster the next. The paranoia is bad and manic depression is spinning her world out of control. Days on the street turn into weeks, no meds leave her lost in time.
Each night at the shelter gets harder. Why is that woman staring back at me? Why is she talking behind my back? She stole my phone just to get back at me. The reality is none of these things are true but in her mind they are.
She hears of a camp on the south side, it’s supposed to be a good group. Maybe it will be easier. All she can think in the muddled confusion is she needs space, privacy. Days turn into weeks that turn into months. Life has become a blur of survival and mania, tents and wet sleeping bags, missed appointments and bad decisions, money lost, ID stolen. It’s getting cold. She needs to go back to Safe to Sleep.
She finds herself waking up Christmas morning at the shelter. She feels a little hope this morning as she is getting ready. She fixes her hair, not so wild this morning. She skips the eyeliner, just a little lipstick. She pulls on her coveralls. It’s so cold, so today’s appearance is less important. She needs to survive. Next week she will call her doctor, get back on her meds. Next week.
– Safe to Sleep Employee
Volunteer Opportunities Helping Seniors
It seems like only yesterday I was picking Deglet Noor Dates at the local date farm. The summers were hot and my job there was hard labor, but I wouldn’t trade being outside working with my hands for anything. And those dates…my grandmother called them the fruit of the gods. She would make me the moistest, sweet apple date nut bread I’ve ever had. As we sat on her back porch, a fan humming in the kitchen window behind us, we would share a piece of bread and a glass of cold milk. The crumbled topping that would flake off on the plate allowed us to savor the moment just a little bit longer as I would press my finger on the crumbs and lick the brown sugar goodness from my fingertips.
That’s been 40 years ago. I had almost let those memories fade from existence until I received my first Senior Box from Crosslines. As I opened the box, there they were. Sitting on top was a package of California Deglet Noor Dates. It was as if they were beckoning me to remember the glorious times I shared with my grandmother as a youth.
I decided to make a batch of my grandmother’s sweet apple date nut bread. This magnified my joyous memories even more. Warm, sweet, moist, just like I remembered. The bread was so delicious, transporting me back to that little house in Palm Desert.
As I sat there reminiscing about days gone by, I remembered my friend, Sandy. Sandy, a clerk from my local corner store, is always so nice when I come in each week to buy my groceries. Last time I went in she wasn’t there. “She has been ill,” was what I was told. As I wrap up 2 slices of sweet apple date nut bread and start the 2 block walk to the corner store I know this bread
will lift her spirits.
Today I saw Sandy with her smiling face welcoming me to her register. Sandy said that the bread reminded her of the date cookies her mother used to make for her. As tears fill her eyes, I realize that our shared experiences were brought to light because of a sweet piece of fruit growing in the hot California sun.
– Crosslines Senior Box Client