Volunteering is a Brunner family tradition. Kurt Brunner is making sure the tradition stays alive.
For Kurt Brunner, volunteering is something of a family tradition. Currently a member of ECS’ Board of Directors, Kurt traces the beginning of his connection to the late 1980s, when his father, now a retired clergyman who had also served on the ECS Board, suggested that he might want to get more involved in his community.
“I spoke with some people with ECS at that time. They asked me to join the Development Committee, which is now the Advancement Committee. That grew into a number of other volunteer activities,” Kurt recalls. Soon after, he became a founding member of Young Friends of ECS in the early- to mid-90s. Eventually, he was also asked to join the ECS Board.
Kurt says just the idea of being in a position to do some work that benefits those who need help is energizing.
“Interacting with participants in various services is energizing. For me, it’s also an educational experience in that I’m getting a perspective on how they see things, and what they’re going through.”
He says he has his own mantra that he has shared with his family, particularly his daughter. And it involves the need to do good.
“I think that’s important. Right now she’s in grad school, and she sees how my wife and I have been volunteers,” Kurt says. “She’s studying to be an elementary education teacher. So she’s doing good in her own way.”
He points to various role models he says have helped shape his commitment to ECS and to his volunteering activities. In addition to his father, he mentions Ray Welsh, a former president of the ECS Board who also was very active in his commitment to ECS for many years. Also, he lists previous ECS Executive Director Rev. John Midwood.
“Meeting these people, getting to know them, having the opportunity to work with them – it gets driven into you that you need to have a social conscious,” Kurt says.
He says it’s also important to understand the point of view of those who need help.
“What’s clear is that the need is so great. That comes not only from working with participants at ECS, but also working in the city – seeing the large number of homeless people, and trying to think of how to help in various ways. We can provide support but it’s also important to have conversations. It’s important to understand where they’re coming from, so we can make sure that how we help is tied to a real understanding of what they’re experiencing,” he says.
Help and Hope
Sometimes that may be mean having a simple conversation and the willingness to listen.
He recalls an experience with ECS’ Seeing Youth Succeed program, which involved a group of teens who would come to ECS on weekends and after school. One day they were working on a documentary at WHYY, with many of the teens working in front of the cameras, behind them, doing interviews, and setting up how the program would work.
“I went there just to interact with the kids, see what was going on, and show support,” Kurt says. “One of the kids being interviewed explained very well what ECS meant to him. He said ‘ECS is a safe place. You don’t know what it’s like growing up in the ‘hood, knowing it might not be safe to go home. ECS is a safe place where I get to develop skills and have the opportunity to move forward.’”
Kurt says that statement encapsulates the mission of ECS.
As our Executive Director Dave Griffith says, “We’re not in the maintenance business, but the change business. Our goal is to help participants break the cycle of poverty and move forward.”
That’s a perspective he says is shared by everyone at ECS, from the executive director to the leadership team, to staff.
“Everyone is committed to making a better life for participants,” Kurt says. “No one is there to do a nine to five job. They all want to help, and build a better future.”