Singing the Praises of Those Who Give of Themselves
I saw this sign when I stopped by the reception desk of IC Compassion. Full disclosure: I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English. This gives me an unofficial unlimited license to correct grammar and spelling whenever I encounter it. This can be pretty annoying to other people, I’m sure. I took this picture and couldn’t wait to send it to Teresa, our Executive Director, to point out the error. 2nd full disclosure: I didn’t notice that “volunteers” was also misspelled. I was more focused on having to “sing” in. I asked Teresa if we were holding auditions for volunteers now. She laughed and said she had noticed the mistake and thought it was funny so left it as is. She suggested I write a blog about the sign and maybe even compose a song for the volunteers to sing.
It takes a special kind of person to volunteer. Someone who willingly gives of their time without expectation of financial reward. Someone who makes a serious commitment but is joyful in helping others. I have volunteered for IC Compassion in different capacities and I’ve truly enjoyed the people I’ve met and the work I’ve done (apart from almost getting fired once, but that’s a story for another blog).
IC Compassion started in a small space across from the current location. There was a small food pantry and gas vouchers were provided. The seeds of volunteering for IC Compassion were planted and flourished with the Wednesday Night Community Meal that was open to the public. An amazing thing happened. The people who came for the meal wanted to help any way they could; setting up, cooking, cleaning, etc. We had people start taking turns providing the food. More people showed up, creating other needs that were met by starting ESL and Citizenship classes and one-on-one tutoring. Volunteers came to us from the community, from the University of Iowa and Kirkwood, from all different faiths. Volunteers started cooking classes. A garden was started for those who wanted to grow food. Soon IC Compassion had two food pantries. We were fortunate to tap into AmeriCorps, providing a new source of volunteers. As you might expect, as the number of volunteers and IC Compassion’s programs increased, the need for people to supervise the volunteers was evident. Guess who they were? The people who first started as volunteers, by their initiative and responsibility, were ready to lead others and help our programs flourish.
Covid-19 has changed all our lives dramatically for the time being. Prior to the pandemic, IC Compassion had about 200 volunteers a week. Because of the health risks of Covid-19, we have had to put strict guidelines in place and temporarily suspend programs. However, IC Compassion’s food pantry remains open, due to the tremendous community need. IC Compassion is the only food pantry in Johnson County that has seen an increase in demand. Our demand has been 300-400% of normal! Currently, there are 14 volunteers plus 5 AmeriCorps workers working to fulfill the unprecedented demand. I cannot adequately express my deep gratitude for these 19 beautiful souls in doing this important work. Of course, there’s always a need for more people if you feel so moved and have time to commit.
I truly feel God’s hand in how the volunteer program has grown and how it has allowed IC Compassion to develop the programs we have in place to meet the ever-growing important needs of our community. As for the song? The volunteers are doing the real work. I’m leaving that up to them. I know it will be uplifting and joyful, destined to be a big hit (although we really should correct the spelling of “volunteers”).
“And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” Hebrews 13:16
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10