For the past year and half, Lori has worked as an AARP volunteer in The Hub – dispensing diapers, hygiene products, pads, baby wipes, reading glasses, hats, scarves, greeting cards and mail to guests from Wellspring’s backdoor and answering and directing the Center’s phone calls.
Lori’s position fit her like a silk glove. Her constant presence in The Hub soothed volunteers, staff and guests alike. She came to Wellspring seasoned at working with the public — for years, she worked as a wedding dress consultant.
Now, Lori will be leaving Wellspring to work as a Support Staff Member at Next Move.
“My heart was set on finding nonprofit work,” she said. “It’s coming to life for me. It’s not about, ‘me, me, me.’”
“Wellspring has been a big foot up for me,” she said. “I feel more equipped heading into this new job.”
Lori enrolled in AARP’s Senior Community Service Employment Program which provides people aged 55 years and older a temporary work site for a year and a half while they search for work.
“I found out about Wellspring through the AARP organization,” she said. “I was out searching for work and started to realize that age discrimination really does exist.”
Lori’s employment specialist at AARP suggested that she work at Wellspring.
Lori was interviewed by Sister Judy and Terri, Wellspring’s volunteer coordinator, and hired to be an AARP volunteer at Wellspring on the spot.
Lori’s first impression of Wellspring was the calmness that it exuded and how protected she felt inside the Center.
“I remember my first day here kind of threw me back because everyone approaching me was so positive and so happy to have me,” she said. “You don’t have that in a corporate office. It’s more like ‘Good morning, are you the new girl?’ But, here, it is open arms and open hearts. ”
How has working in The Hub affected you?
“It has kept me on my toes,” she said. “The back door can be difficult. People are coming back there because they are first getting here or they are stressed about somewhere that they are going and have to leave the Center. Sometimes tempers can flare and being in the Hub has taught me a lot of patience. You can have situations where someone is going to get right into your face and you have to tell them to step back, take a breath and ask them to let you shut the door. You tell them, ‘I’ll talk to you in a minute.’ But, most guests are so wonderful. You get to talk to so many people. I love Wellspring.”
How has working at Wellspring impacted your view of poverty?
“It really has opened my eyes up to all the different aspects of poverty,” she said. “I view homelessness differently now. You can overlook some paper work that needs to be filled out and find yourself out on the streets. I’ve become a lot more cognizant about what it entails to stay housed when you are living in poverty. There is a lot involved. I see the ladies come in and they are very anxious to get their paperwork to someone. There are so many different bits of business that must be dealt with daily to get them and keep them off the streets. Someone calls the Hub and tells me that she doesn’t have a home. She asks me where she can go. I have to decipher if it is something that I can pass onto Genelle, Wellspring’s LCSW, or something that I can deal with in the moment by giving her a list of shelters. Sometimes the people who call just need a listening ear. I will tell them. ‘Be prepared, the shelters are usually very full so come in and have some coffee and breakfast and you can get a little information while you are here.’”
How has working in The Hub impacted how you view diapers, hygiene products and sanitary pads?
“Now, I see how a package of ten diapers can mean to the world to somebody and how essential hygiene products,” Lori said. “We take them for granted when we are housed and we have shampoo and soap in our showers. The reality of being among the women and the children who don’t have those things can make you sad, but it is also very rewarding to feel like you are giving back. When people bring donations, they feel the same way – you feel that warmth that they get when they give.”
How have the relationships that you’ve made with the guests impacted you?
“I’ve become more aware of the different walks of life,” Lori said. “Maybe little kids will look up to you and they don’t have their grandmother and they will go, ‘Hi Grandma Lori!’ I’ve heard that a few times and I go, ‘How cute are you? You can call me Grandma, I am a Grandma.’ A lot of the ladies say, ‘Hey Lori!’ They come back just to see your face. It is nice to make friendships because that is what they are. They have become friendships. I’ve come across women outside of Wellspring and they’ll come up across the street and hug me. It is amazing.”
What does giving mean to you?
“It’s my favorite thing to do,” Lori said. “I feel that giving is love. You give up yourself materially, mentally and emotionally. It is about something that benefits somebody else.”