For Deanna Doane, the experience of volunteering with ECS has brought years of rewards to her and her family.
Those experiences began approximately seven years ago, when she and her family first learned about WinterShelter, an ECS-sponsored haven situated at Trinity Memorial Church in Philadelphia. One of her sons was receiving his confirmation and was looking for a service project.
“We attended as a family, absolutely fell in love with it, and started doing it once a month. It’s our favorite night of the month,” Deanna says.
She says they have made numerous friends over the years through those efforts. But the most rewarding aspect is seeing the good it does. She notes that the shelter provides counselling, a warm place to sleep and meals served by volunteers.
“It gives them an opportunity to get on their feet, leave their things and try to get their jobs and life going,” Deanna explains. “It also offers camaraderie, warmth, and a good meal.”
Giving and Getting Back
Deanna says the most rewarding aspect about being a volunteer with ECS is “the hugs” and the expressions of thanks from the men who come to the shelter for a meal that she and her family are helping to serve.
“They call us ‘the family’ and seem to truly enjoy visiting with our family,” Deanna says. “We also give hugs to all that will take them, we sit and visit and try to just give them the respect they deserve.”
In addition, she and her family make an extra effort to cook a variety of different foods – especially things they would serve in their own home.
“We know they get a lot of pasta and soup so we try to bring more fun things. We started bring soda this season because soda has gotten so expensive for them. We also bring wrapped cookies they can take with them as a snack. They are very appreciative of things like that.”
Part of that appreciation also stems from the respectful approach that she and her family make it a point to embrace.
“When you’re blessed like we are, it’s important that when have the opportunity to meet people may less fortunate, that you treat them like human beings, with respect,” she says. “When we serve at WinterShelter, we try to make it fun. It’s as though we’re saying: ‘This is what we cook at home and we wanted you to enjoy it too.’”
A Strong Supporting Cast
Deanna is also thankful for the thorough training and support that she and her family have been given by ECS and key staff. There is always someone to call for information and support, she says.
During her experience within the Community Outreach Partnership, Deanna says there have been a number of people that have stood out.
“John Randolph is an amazing leader with vision,” she says. “He cares so deeply and respects the people he works with. We have all learned from him and consider him a friend. In fact, I’ve taken lessons learned from him to utilize in my work with others on other boards. Also, Terry Neuwirth and Daisy Stuempfig are dedicated and inspiring volunteers. Like John, they are so very respectful of all they work with.”
And what does the future hold? Deanna hopes she and her family will continue their volunteer work with WinterShelter and that her sons will continue to seek out volunteer opportunities in their college experience and beyond.
“Too often, we get stuck in our own little bubble,” Deanna says. “Volunteering is a wonderful way to get exposed to people who you’ve never crossed paths with, and probably wouldn’t have the chance to have a conversation with.”
“Volunteering gives you a chance to spend a day outside your zone, so you can see the difference you can make in the world.”
At the same time, making the effort can be very rewarding on a personal level as well, she says: “Because in giving, you will receive so much more than you ever expect to.”