April is known as National Volunteer Appreciation Month and as we close out the month, we want to take a moment to share a little inspiration that comes from a year of change — not only for our grieving families, but also for our volunteers.
Our volunteers have shown up in unique ways we never expected or experienced in years past. They accepted the challenges the pandemic handed them and turned them into the changes we never dreamed we needed or thought capable of achieving.
Our volunteers rallied to keep the Erin's House mission alive with every pivot made as a result of COVID-19 and the challenges it created for our program that relies heavily on in-person peer-support groups and the volunteers who facilitate them.
The twists and turns of an ever-changing world created new volunteer roles within our new virtual platform, and also revived the long-lost art of handwriting personalized notes sent through the mail. Yes, I said “mail” not “email.”
A few of our new Erin's House volunteer roles due to COVID-19 include:
Virtual peer-support facilitators, in addition to “chat box” facilitators who reach those kids that may feel more comfortable staying "on mute”
Pen Pals: currently writing to over 200 kids each month
Mask-makers: supplied the cutest handsewn masks around town
Creating and recording Healing Heart activity videos
Producing a Grief Dance Tutorial and Cartoon Drawing Tutorial
At-home pizza deliveries to our virtual Camp Good Grief campers
Narrating and recording children’s books videos for our little ones
Drive-thru Holiday Party Greeters handed out gifts and family activities to do at home
While these are just some additional roles our volunteers generated over the past year, they never failed to deliver in their steadfast contributions of:
Advocating for grieving children
Donating financially and in-kind to ensure our families will never be charged a fee
Choosing selfless acts of kindness to help heal hearts
Using their voice to speak on behalf of the bereaved
Volunteering in-person for our special events and off-site programming
Listening and being available as a companion in someone’s time of need
We asked volunteers how this past year has changed them and here are a handful of the responses we received:
I feel like there is even more value in the volunteer role throughout this pandemic. We are all in some way experiencing unique emotions, isolation, and sadness for what feels like a different world.
In a world where it feels like so much has changed and shut down, and things feel anything but normal - I feel an even greater purpose to show up and sit at that computer to be some sort of consistency for the groups to help with the battles they’re facing. — ALLY
This past year as a 10–13 year-old facilitator has been one of amazement and challenges. I am amazed at the number of kids that show up to group on Thursday evenings and participate. I love how my co-facilitators and I are able to work together - virtually!
This past year has affirmed that Erin’s House is a necessity and not simply a luxury for our community, our kids, our families.
Well ... actually because of Covid, volunteering at Erin’s house got better for me.
Since I was a snowbird, I would substitute and I wasn’t doing much because last minute needs usually didn’t fit my schedule. Then came Covid and the opportunity for pen pals! I found that this made me feel like I was contributing in some small way. And the coordinator made it easy and fun. Thank you, Erin’s House! — CAROL
For me personally, Erin's House has been a stable piece of my life that both myself and the kids have been able to rely on every two weeks. In a world with all these additional stressors and our normal resilience strategies unavailable, the need for Erin's House has been greater than ever. Zoom has allowed for new types of activities and the ability to use the private chat has opened avenues of communication that may otherwise be closed at in-person group. — BRANDON
This past year showed me how special my group and fellow program night facilitators are to me as I miss everyone dearly. It is an honor to hear and see the kids’ growth in their grief journeys.
Erin’s House changed me not only the past year, but since I moved to Fort Wayne. It has allowed me to grow and helped me decide what I want to do in college. Erin’s House has been my comfort place since 2014.
This past year has been difficult for many of us and has challenged me in many ways especially being consistent. With a place like Erin's House, it's important to be consistent because the kids rely on us volunteers to be a positive light every day.
My volunteer experience at Erin's House has been awesome. Being with the kids, seeing them smile, and feeling all their energy - it keeps me going!
Through a year of endless changes, Erin's House wants to thank our volunteers and the community who supports them for everything they have done to keep hope alive. We recognize each individual for every step they have taken and every opportunity they have seized to be a light in the darkness for grieving kids and families within our community.
We look forward to another year of change when our lights will shine even brighter than before.
Erin’s House is here to support our community through their grief. If you are in need of resources or support, please reach out to us to speak with a Child Grief Specialist: Info@ErinsHouse.org or 260.423.2466.
Written by: Ellen Roemke | Director of Volunteers