Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Volunteer Spotlight: Wai Har Lee

Wai Har Lee has logged more than 400 volunteer hours at Family House since she started in 2006.  Her dedication and compassion go beyond the tasks she performs, which include working off the house checklist (restocking supplies, tidying and cleaning common areas, etc.) and volunteering at events.  “Children are precious,” she says, “and none of them should have to suffer.”

Her empathy for the patients and their families is what brought her to Family House; the thankfulness of the families is why she continues to be so dedicated to our mission.  “The families appreciate my presence, and often say Thank You to me.”  Wai Har’s strength and time help provide shelter for those who suffer so they can focus on regaining strength and health, and get back to enjoying the everyday joys of life.

Wai Har shares and is a living example of the beliefs of Family House.  Thank you, Wai Har, for all you have done over the many years that you have volunteered with Family House!

Get involved with Family House! Learn more at http://www.familyhouseinc.org/volunteer.html

Lauren Becker: How I Got Involved with Family House

Even though she lived just one block away from Family House, it took a chance interaction on Muni with one of our families for volunteer and YPAC Board Member Lauren Becker to find out about Family House.

“I thought it was a large apartment building conveniently located right across the street from UCSF - a perfect location for nurses, doctors and other hospital staff.  I did not know that 50 Irving Street was one of two houses where thousands of families have called home since 1981.”

One evening, on her way home on a crowded rush-hour N train, Lauren noticed a woman sitting with a sick child and several suitcases.  The woman placed her son on her lap and offered the seat next to her to Lauren.  Though she tried to decline, the mother insisted that Lauren take her son’s seat.

Once they were sitting together, Lauren asked the woman where she was headed.  The mother said that she and her son had been travelling via train for several hours from Northern California so that her child could receive cancer treatment at UCSF.

“Living so close to the hospital and having a car in the city, I asked her if she needed help with anything, and said that I’d be happy to go grocery shopping, or whatever else she needed. To my surprise, the mother declined my offer. With a huge smile and a small sense of relief, she told me she was being taken care of.  I asked where, and she said Family House.”

That fall evening in 2009, Lauren went online and signed up to be a volunteer.  Not only has she been a tremendous asset to Family House as a volunteer (she started with house cleaning/organizing tasks, then moved into working in the office with the development team), she is also a member of our Young Professionals Advisory Council.  Through YPAC, Lauren helps to organize fundraising events for Family House, as well as in-house activities for families, like arts & crafts and family dinner nights.  Thank you, Lauren, for being a caring part of our community.  Your love and compassion helps make Family House a home!

To learn more about volunteering with Family House, please click here: http://www.familyhouseinc.org/volunteer.html

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Volunteer Spotlight: Caryn Pierce

Keeping a clean space for sick kids is one of the most important aspects of Family House, and volunteer Caryn Pierce knows better than most about germs.  A former microbiologist at UCB and mother of two, Caryn is easy to spot, wielding a can of Lysol the way an artist paints with a brush.  “Kids put their mouths on everything,” she says while wiping down banisters and everything at waist-height and below, “especially corners of walls.  My two kids loved to put their mouths on corners.”  Though Ali and Robbie are now in college, Caryn has obviously not forgotten what it was like when they were small.  Every Monday, she comes to our Irving Street location to disinfect all of the toys in the two playrooms - everything from matchbox cars to dolls to video games, and she’s been doing it since 2010.

Caryn’s hard work is not just inside Family House - she also plants and maintains the gardens at both locations, so the entrances are as welcoming as our homes can be.  Her passion for gardening is evident.  “Each house has a different microclimate, so the plantings are different.  Like an English garden, I mix annuals, perennials, native species, and just fun stuff.  I love the feedback from the families, neighbors, and visitors.”

When she comes to Family House, Caryn stops to say hello to everyone – staff, visitors, and especially families that are relaxing in the kitchens or living rooms.  While her regular routine includes disinfecting and gardening, she’ll pitch in with anything that is needed.  “I find lots of little jobs, nailing, gluing, vacuuming under the fridge, whatever it takes to help out to keep things moving smoothly.”

Of her experience volunteering with Family House, Caryn says, “I feel like the people who keep the vibe of safety, love, respect, and hugs are truly angels on earth.  Interacting with families while I work has been a joy, and I have learned so much about bravery and dignity.  It is an honor for me to work with the families. I am filled with compassion, gratitude, love, sharing, and friendship from my experience here. “

We are so grateful to volunteers like Caryn, that Family House regularly recognizes their central role by presenting Volunteer of the Month Awards, which Caryn could win every month.  Her regular visits mean that Family House will always be safe and comfortable for families.  “My favorite part of volunteering is the feeling I get when I come back with a new plant, or just have a chance to be a fellow mom and listen. My soul is rejuvenated.”

Get involved with Family House! Learn more at http://www.familyhouseinc.org/volunteer.html

Monday, April 15, 2013

All Star Followup – Staci Pursley

Staci Pursley lives in the quiet town of Atwater, California, just a few minutes’ drive from her hometown of Winton.  A friendly and youthful nurse with a beautiful family, you might assume that her compassion is something she learned in school or from working with families in need.  It’s hard to imagine her less than a decade ago as a 15-year-old starting her own battle with childhood cancer.

“In 2004, I was living with my parents in Winton when I was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, just a few days shy of my 16th birthday. I received treatments of chemotherapy during an 8-month span, as well as 6 weeks of radiation.  My mother and I practically lived at Family House on 10th Avenue during that entire time.”

While she was being treated at the hospital, Family House was able to provide a stable, comfortable place for Staci’s mom and twin sister Stefani to stay.  Having her family close by meant that Staci could focus on getting better, and look ahead to the future.
 Nine years after her diagnosis, Staci’s life is full and vibrant, and her own family keeps her on her toes.  “John and I have been married for 3 years, and we have two wonderful children – our 2-year old son Gage, and 6-week old daughter Elliott.  I'm very thankful for what Family House was able to provide for us during our time of need. Family House is truly a blessing.”

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