"I always thought that I would not have enough time or energy to volunteer. However, I realized that volunteering is a natural energy fix for me. I always feel exhilarated after I finish a SOHO session."
Volunteer Director, West End - Space of Her Own (SOHO )
Volunteer Advocate, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
Feeder & Cleaner, King Street Cats in Alexandria
Q: How did you first get involved with this organization and begin volunteering?
I teach for Alexandria City public schools and I first heard about the program through a school social worker. I went to the SOHO mentor orientation and was instantly hooked. Linda Odell, Director of Alternative Programs for Alexandria Court Services, did a phenomenal job of explaining the unique needs of the SOHO girls and why the SOHO mentor can make such a huge impact in the life of a girl.
Q: Why did you choose to be a part of this particular organization?
I loved the idea of using art as a tool to reach at-risk girls. I was also really excited about the idea of renovating a girl’s bedroom. I had looked at other mentoring programs, but I felt that SOHO did the most thorough job at reaching girls academically, socially and emotionally.
Q: How long have you been volunteering?
I signed up to be a mentor for the 2004-2005 school year and I have stayed active with SOHO since then. After my first year as a mentor, I knew that I wanted to be a part of SOHO indefinitely. I mentored for two years, renovated 3 different bedrooms, ran the after school club for SOHO graduates at the middle school level and now I am taking on the task of running the new west end SOHO.
Q: How many hours per week or month do you volunteer?
During the SOHO season, I volunteer approximately 4 hours a week. I also volunteer approximately 12 hours each month for the CASA program and 8 hours a month for King Street Cats.
Q: What do your volunteer duties involve?
Right now, I am working on recruiting mentors, obtaining donations for the girls, finding volunteer art teachers, and working with guidance counselors to find the most qualified girls to participate in the program. Once SOHO starts, I will be making sure that the mentors have the tools they need to make effective and long lasting bonds with the girls. I will also be supervising the Thursday sessions to make sure things are running smoothly. I will be working with teachers to make sure that the SOHO girls are doing the best they can in school. I will be working with parents to make sure that they understand the SOHO program and how they can play a role. I will be working with both the SOHO participants and mentors to make sure that all of their needs are being met and that they are loving the program!
When I mentored, my goal was to build a connection with my mentee-- working one-on-one with her on art projects-- while trying to encourage her to build self-esteem and positive relationships along the way.
Q: What is the best part of volunteering at this organization?
I love volunteering for SOHO because I get to watch girls make amazing transformations. In the beginning of SOHO, many girls are shy, have low self-esteem, have coping deficits and are lacking in positive role models. At the end of SOHO, the girls are noticeably different-- exuberant, positive, and glowing. I also love how the group of SOHO girls bond with each other and build lasting and meaningful relationships. Of course, I love volunteering for SOHO because it is fun for me. After a stressful day at work, it is so much fun to unwind by doing art projects and interacting with a young, energetic girl.
Q: What have you learned from your volunteer experience?
I always thought that I would not have enough time or energy to volunteer. However, I realized that volunteering is a natural energy fix for me. I always feel exhilarated after I finish a SOHO session. I have also learned that so many Alexandria residents are willing to help out in many different ways if you just ask.
Q: What would you recommend for others who want to get more involved in the community through volunteer work?
If you want to have a life-changing experience, then volunteer! Don’t worry if you think that you won’t be able to find a program that matches up with your interests because there are so many different ways to volunteer in Alexandria City. Whether it is working directly with individuals, or doing something behind the scenes like fundraising or paperwork, there is something out there for you. Even something that may seem minor to you like stuffing envelopes can make a positive impact. Volunteering benefits everyone-- the people in the program, the community, and you.