One of our more dedicated Harbor House volunteers is an avid quilter. Harbor House does have a quilting group, but that wasn't what attracted this volunteer. As someone who's worked with children as a court-appointed special advocate (CASA), Bruce wanted to stay in touch with one of his families after his official capacity ended. So when the kids joined the Harbor House program, Bruce offered to volunteer with us once a week. Thus started what Humphrey Bogart might call a beautiful friendship between Bruce and Harbor House.
Bruce works with the youngest kids; primarily the boys. Many of these little guys have no male role models in their lives and crave the attention of any man who volunteers. They don't have a lot of people who really listen to them, and Bruce
does this well. He sits on the ground with the kids and looks them in the eye and gives them his full attention, whether they're having an argument, playing a game or telling a drawn-out story about their neighbor's cat.
Some volunteers increase their involvement as they get to know an organization while others slowly fade away as the novelty wears off. Bruce is the former. In addition to spending time with the kids, he started buying us snack ingredients, which both helps out our budget and the over-stretched schedules of our staff who would otherwise have to go snack shopping. When we discussed how often he'd want to come help out during the summer program, Bruce started with Tuesdays and Thursdays, then decided Friday field trips sounded fun. Before the program started, he had added in Mondays, and he just let me know that he could often come on Wednesdays, just a little late.
Our teenage staff is sometimes a little hesitant about having volunteers assigned to help them. They've seen many volunteers come and go, and while there have been some absolute shining stars, it can be hard for teenagers with a lot of responsibility to adjust to different people helping. In addition, many of our volunteers are white (our staff and kids are generally not) and of retirement age, so it can be tough for the staff to relate to them. Wary of these concerns about volunteers, I asked the counselor in charge of one of the younger groups if she was OK having Bruce volunteer for the summer in her group. She said, "Yay Bruce! Do I get him the whole time?? That helps me so much. Everyone loves Bruce!!" Yes, Bruce, everyone here at Harbor House does love you. Here's lookin' at you, kid.