Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Volunteer’s Story: Nicole Riley


          As an undergraduate student studying Psychology at USF, I enrolled in our “Practicum” course this semester, wherein each student gets the chance to volunteer in a community setting of their choosing. In looking through places where other students had previously volunteered, Family House immediately stuck out to me because I am passionate about serving youth, but had never worked with those stricken by life-threatening illnesses. Being someone who is easily taken by emotions, I felt that being placed at Family House would challenge me to be a stronger person while supporting an incredible organization that gives to the families of children in need.
          In my few months volunteering at Family House so far, I can say confidently that I have become a stronger person through those I am surrounded with when I am here. The welcoming and compassionate staff help create the home-like feel that is within the walls at Family House, and the kind and thoughtful families that stay here bring joy to circumstances that are often bleak. Combined with all the volunteers that come to keep the house safe and tidy, cook and do crafts, and offer support from therapy dogs, I’ve seen a very strong and uplifting sense of community apparent in this house.
           I have been fortunate to see many different sides of Family House, from working through the house check-list to make sure everything is stocked and in working condition for the families, to helping keep Family House connected to the greater community through social media, to interviewing families so that I can learn their stories, to attending fundraising events. One experience that truly opened my eyes to what an incredible organization Family House is occurred during a volunteer shift at their annual Cabernet for Connoisseurs​ fundraiser. Near the end of the night, during the auctioning, they held a live pledge and I watched in awe as person after person after person raised their paddles to give to Family House. Seeing a ballroom full of people jumping to give their support to Family House was evidence of what an impact they have made on the population that they are serving and of the faith that the community has in their endeavors.
          In beginning my placement at Family House, I was told by my Professor that I would have a dual role: I would be a server, but I would also be a learner. In whatever ways I can, I have attempted to serve this beautiful organization and the work that they do as a home away from home for families of children with life-threatening illnesses. Perhaps more importantly, I have been taught so much by the staff, families, and other volunteers at Family House. I have seen that it is possible to show strength and comfort and compassion during what may be impossibly hard times. I hope that I can continue to lend support to Family House long after my practicum class comes to an end.

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