Volunteer Profile: James Lightfoot

Page updated on Nov 25, 2009 at 5:30 PM

"I get to help rebuild lives through teaching, mentoring and being a friend to those who are incarcerated."

Chairman, St. Joseph Catholic Church - Social Concerns


Q: How did you first get involved with this organization and begin volunteering?

I was first introduced to volunteering at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in 2003, when Sister Connie Parcasio, along with members from our diocese, came to visit our parish.  They came to talk about the benefits of serving the incarcerated.  Their convincing stories, and examples of administering goodwill, compelled me to help rebuild lives through teaching, mentoring and being a friend to those who are incarcerated.

Q: Why did you choose to be a part of this particular organization?

My parents chose me-- from birth-- to be a member of St. Joseph.  Although I have always lived in Alexandria, St. Joseph has always been my church home (organization of preference.)

Q: How long have you been volunteering?

I started volunteering in 1971 in Boston, MA with the Big Brother organization.

Q: How many hours per week or month do you volunteer?

I spend approximately six hours a week volunteering:

  • 2 hours, Alexandria Detention Center – Computer Training
  • 2 hours, Alexandria Juvenile Detention Center – Reading is Power (Organization: Urban Passage)
  • 2 hours, Mentoring Alexandria youth 12 years-old (Organization: Urban League)

Q: What do your volunteer duties involve?

Alexandria Detention Center – Computer Training

General tasks include:

  • opening the Computer Room
  • starting up the equipment
  • helping each of the inmates with whatever project they want to work on
  • making sure all the equipment is shut down properly at the end of the class
  • ensuring that what we brought in is taken out unless we have permission to leave it

Detail tasks include:

  • learning to type, formatting letters and other documents (Mavis Beacon and MS Word)
  • preparing greeting or birthday cards (MS Publisher)
  • developing spread sheets, setting up a database (MS Excel and Access)
  • designing a web page (HTML and MS Publisher)
  • teaching inmates who need instructions on how to use each of the computer programs required for the specific project they are working on
  • making suggestions and provide ideas for the projects

Alexandria Juvenile Detention Center – Mentoring

General tasks:

  • sitting down with our youth, on a one-to-one basis to go over their worksheets (lesson instructions)
  • discussing topics and other issues that are important to them
  • preparing lesson plans

Detail tasks include:

  • distributing classroom materials to each student
  • responding to student questions
  • explaining vocabulary that is not clear
  • helping and guiding them as appropriate with their worksheets
  • listening to them (on a one-on-one arrangement) read their passages
  • helping them improve their reading skills
  • reviewing their answers to questions on the readings
  • collecting and inventorying all the materials used in the class
  • preparing lesson plans and tailored them to each individual student for the next session

Guild Grandfathers Group: Northern Virginia Urban League – Mentoring

General tasks:

  • providing activities (which can vary from week-to-week)
  • teaching life lessons
  • being a friend

Detail tasks include:

  • picking-up protégé from home and talking about the events that occurred during the week and plans for the following week-- over a snack at a local restaurant
  • attending the library where we can read books (take them home) and play computer games
  • providing one-on-one reading lessons through the Reading-Is-Power program
  • attending local games, high-school football and basketball and professional baseball (Nationals)
  • visiting local museums, parks (including skateboard parks)
  • playing football, frisbee, basketball and exercising in the gym

Q: What is the best part of volunteering at this organization?

I like hanging out with friends!

Q: What have you learned from your volunteer experience?

We always have more in common then different.

Q: What would you recommend for others who want to get more involved in the community through volunteer work?

Find a local volunteer organization you feel comfortable with and sign-up!

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