Story of the Week: 3/16/15-3/20/15
Fostering Hope and Building Community
by Matt Sherman
Serving with COVER, one thing you learn quickly is how important it is to engage with the volunteers and homeowners on our weekly home repair and weatherization projects. The mission of the organization is to foster hope and build community. We aim to accomplish this by bringing people together from various backgrounds to work together towards a common goal. Through a typical day, we will invite the homeowners to join us in the work and talk with the volunteers, giving them a chance to connect with each other. Oftentimes, the highlight of the day comes at lunch, which is a time of lively conversation and good food prepared by the homeowner. Whether I’m sitting back and enjoying their stories or answering their questions about how different Wisconsin is from Vermont, I get something new out of each encounter. Every week offers a unique atmosphere, and you never know what you’ll learn or who you might meet.
The volunteers we work with come from all walks of life, and whether they’re an expert handy-man or have never touched a hammer in their life, everyone leaves at the end of the day with a sense of accomplishment. At the end of a long day, it’s really rewarding to look back at that new roof or ramp you just helped install. And when the volunteers have worked and talked with the homeowner all day, they really gain an appreciation for how much their work means on a personal level. These interactions and feelings can have a strong impact on people, and we’ll have many volunteers who come out whenever they can because they just love helping others. Whether it’s just a one time thing or as regular contribution, all of our volunteers come out of each project knowing they’ve put in a hard days work.
Among our regular group of volunteers, we have a couple of super volunteers who have dedicated themselves to helping us meet our mission. We have our small projects specialist who’s been out with us so many times in the past that we know we can send him out on his own now and expect great results. And over our weatherization season, we had a volunteer join us every weekend we were out, putting in over 100 hours of volunteer service in a two month period. Having the opportunity to work alongside volunteers with such a drive to help people has been a great experience and really shows you how much people care. When you combine the great work of these volunteers with our other regulars and all those first-timers, it’s not very hard to figure out how we’re able to get so much done.
One of the great things about serving with COVER is spending time every weekend with these volunteers and sharing in a learning experience with them. Sometimes you’ll have a teaching moment, but just as often you’re learning something from working alongside them. These exchanges might be small or profound, but each one contributes to the community building that happens every time we go out.