Have we ever told you how great our volunteers are? Probably; we like to brag about them every chance we can get! Our volunteers are truly the key to our success. These men and women consistently give of their time and energy to come alongside those in need. To learn more about our volunteer opportunities, click here. To learn more about our clearinghouse office and how it operates, click here. We want to take some time to let you get to know our volunteers and allow them to share some of their stories from the front-lines.
A Little About Sheryl
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit and talk with one of SERVE’s Assistant Directors, Sheryl, who calls ML First Presbyterian her home church. Although Sheryl has been volunteering at SERVE since 2009, she describes herself as “unqualified” for the job. She has never experienced the situations that many of our clients face and must rely heavily on God for the wisdom and compassion to serve them. Through her time at SERVE she has learned a lot about why people end up in difficult situations in life. She has learned that making snap judgments about people is not helpful, but understanding that everyone has a back story lends itself to being able to come alongside a client and help them through their journey.
What it looks like to journey with a client
A client may come in with a huge need, one that seems to snowball out of control. The intake volunteer can sit with them and break down the problem piece by piece so that it does not seem so overwhelming. From there, they can develop a plan of action with clear steps to be taken.
To illustrate this for me, Sheryl describes a situation with a client in which their Grandma had passed away suddenly and there was a $3,000 funeral bill the client was responsible for. After hearing the story, Sheryl first made a call to the funeral home and worked out a payment arrangement. The funeral home was willing to lower the price, the client was able to pay a portion of the expense and get family to chip in as well, then SERVE agreed to pay the final balance. In this situation, the client was employed and diligently paying their regular monthly bills. This unexpected expense, however, had potential to cause major financial hardships as they did not have any extra money in the budget to cover the full amount.
“We are here to build a bridge with our clients,
but they have to take the step to cross over it.”
Success, in Sheryl's mind, happens when the bridge is built, the client crosses it, and finds God on the other side. In her experience, many clients have some belief in God but have become so consumed with the chaos in their lives that going to church or growing their relationship with the Lord is the last thing on their list. In situations such as these, Sheryl likes to encourage families about how much church can have a positive effect on their kids. Parenting is difficult, but if the kids are going to church and being taught good lessons and morals there, it will back up what the parents are also trying to teach at home.
The Office Environment
Although the work at SERVE can be frustrating and draining at times, Sheryl notes that she is never in it alone, nor are any of the volunteers. Tim and the volunteers work as a team and seek wisdom from the Holy Spirit for decision making. Sheryl is one of the Assistant Directors and so is tasked with more decision making responsibility. "When you are conducting an intake, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the emotion of someone’s situation and the desire to make a decision out of emotion can be strong." Sheryl ensures that volunteers take a step back after meeting with a client and put in the time to verify the client’s need and put into action a well thought out plan for the client.
Sheryl’s vision for SERVE is to have a facility to contain not only the clearinghouse office, but also a warming center and classrooms for clients to learn life skills. She thinks it would be great to have a place where the clients can “work-to-earn” things and take more ownership of getting their needs met.
Below, Sheryl and a team of volunteers confer during their weekly shift.