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ROOM AT THE INN — SERVICE SPOTLIGHT WITH MOTHER’S REFUGE

Written by VolunteerMark contributor Anna Spady of anna.spadydesign.com

“She softly said, ‘I now have no home again.’ Those six little words, ‘I now have no home again,’ will forever echo in my mind.”

Those are the words of Mother’s Refuge executive director Robert Zornes, describing his memory of the fire that destroyed their community home the night of Oct. 8, 2012.

Mother’s Refuge is a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving young, single pregnant women a loving and supportive home. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mandy Taylor, the nonprofit’s volunteer coordinator, and what struck me most about her description of their organization is how everyone becomes “family.”

“Sometimes people act as if we enable bad girls,” Taylor said. “But really, these girls have had real issues. They’re at-risk, even been homeless. Many have never really even been parented. They just want someone to listen, love them and be there for them. It’s something most of them have never had.”

The organization is dedicated to unconditionally loving and supporting new mothers, while simultaneously preparing them for life on their own. Their cozy home is filled with up to nine young women and five babies at any given time and is intentionally longer-term than other similar programs — up to almost two years. That duration uniquely enables the staff to tailor their support to the individual needs of each woman and child.

Core values of the program include:

  • Stability The linchpin of the nonprofit is a solid home base. According to Taylor, it’s oftentimes the “first real home the women have ever had.”
  • Education The program requires the women to further their education, pursuing either a GED, high school diplomaor college degree.
  • Life Skills Money management, cooking and managing a home are just a few of the lessons taught.
  • Resources When desired the staff helps facilitate adoptions, provide nursery equipment and baby clothes as well as host an after-care program for their graduates.

In their pasts, these women often faced homelessness. Like Zornes relayed, last year’s house fire forced them to face it again. Not all girls have been rejected by their families, but most have been living friend to friend or in at-risk environments all their lives.

That’s why so many have been laboring to restore the Mother’s Refuge house. Taylor reported that since the fire, there have been volunteers on site working every day towards rebuilding the structure. And they still need help.

The organization’s greatest current needs are help with manning its upcoming garage sale and transforming its once-ravished home into a more cozier one. They specifically need people willing to volunteer with construction, plumbing, sheetrock and cleanup. The goal is to move the families back in by midsummer of this year and be settled in by August. Follow them on Facebook for complete updates on the rebuild.

Lastly, Taylor makes a point of telling volunteers that if they don’t see an opportunity that appeals to them, just let her know what does. She has volunteers doing everything from gardening to training mentors to helping moms get set up for apartment life.

“Everyone has something to offer,” Taylor said.

What is your something?

For a list of current volunteer opportunities with Mother’s Refuge, visit the nonprofit’s VolunteerMark page and sign-up today.

WHY WE CARE SERIES SAYS A LOT

“It has taught me that love in action is the most important thing of all, whether you are helping those right next door, or in a remote village in a third-world country.”

That quote comes from Sean O’Malley, an intern over at our sister organization VolunteerMark. They are running a series to celebrate National Volunteer Week called “Why We Care”, a miniseries explaining how their employees got into volunteering.

O’Malley had a great post today that we wanted to share. To see the rest, check out their blog. Also, we love the idea and want to copy it. E-mail your short stories of why you volunteer to thecallkc@gmail.com and we will publish them later this month.

National Volunteer Week: Why We Care

To those in the VolunteerMark network, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Sean O’Malley and though I am new at VolunteerMark, I am not new to the world of volunteering.

I grew up in North Platte, a small railroad town in western Nebraska. The eldest of three kids, I was taught to be a loving example to my younger siblings and put others before myself.

Growing up, we often are molded by the culmination of those small moments, which make us into the people we are today. I am no exception. As I grew up, my parents preached not by words, but by example. They allowed me to complain, grumble and make mistakes, as long as the work got done. Eventually actions became thoughts and over time, my thoughts became me.

There was no single moment that defines why I give back, but my move to Kansas City to attend Rockhurst University played an enormous role in my faith and service development. Rockhurst gave me a platform to exercise my passion for volunteerism.

The school has offered me chances to help those less fortunate both in Kansas City and around the world. It has taught me that love in action is the most important thing of all, whether you are helping those right next door, or in a remote village in a third-world country.

If I could narrow down why I give back into one word, it would be love. My parents’ wisdom showed me how to love with action and purpose. Rockhurst then gave me the opportunity to love all those around me with both understanding and perspective.

The culmination of these factors thus has shaped me into the man I am today, and I feel as if I am just getting started.

CHANGE TAKES TIME, COMMITMENT AND LOVE

Valentine’s Day weekend was a hectic one for our volunteers.

To begin with, dental students from the University of Missouri-Kansas City spent the entire week preparing valentines for family charities around the city. On the afternoon on Feb. 14, the young adults then delivered the cards to mothers and children at Synergy ServicesMother’s Refuge,Hillcrest Transitional Housing Lee’s Summit and Hillcrest Transitional Housing Platte County.

In total, the students created and passed out 121 Valentine’s Day cards. Just an amazing showcase of kindness towards those in need.

On the following day, we had a group of eight young adults get together at Hillcrest Platte to wash and paint the charities’ hallways. Over a three-hour span, the group cleaned six apartment unit walkways as well as painted a trifecta of bannisters, window trims and door jams.

While the process wasn’t glamorous, it was certainly appreciated.

“Please pass along our thanks for the people who made the Valentine’s Day cards and the group that cleaned and painted the halls on Saturday,” Hillcrest volunteer manager Kendall Welch said. “Both items took some time and we really appreciate that. Halls look and smell so much better and the resident children were glad to get a card.”

These two volunteer outings are perfect examples of how little moments of love can make big impacts. Change takes time and only comes about after hours of commitment, dedication and compassion.

Thus, improving our communities is not just one large event that instantly creates heaven on earth. Instead, it’s hundreds of small acts of kindness — such as washing down a homeless shelter or making holiday cards for those who couldn’t afford them — that bring about true change.

If you want to make your community a better place, do so with actions. No matter how small or large, you can make a difference. Here is how — contact us at thecallkc@gmail.com.

GROUPS ARE VITAL FOR OUR SUCCESS

Since we started this movement last summer, recruiting groups has always been the goal. From schools to churches to civic clubs, we believe in the power of numbers.

The theory is simple — people are more inclined to volunteer when they are doing it with someone they know.

“It starts with an idea, then action and finally commitment.”

It’s like positive peer pressure. When a new volunteer steps out of their comfort zone and into a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, the experience is often easier and more beneficial if shared. The notion also improves a volunteer’s accountability and enthusiasm.

For all the reasons listed above, and a few other organizational rationales, we try to target local groups as much as possible. Case in point, we have reached out to area high schools like Park Hill South and Oak Park and contacted every club, athletic squad and group available.

We are casting a wide net, hoping to land a few from each school and then building up our network from there. Currently, we use the same models for every sector of the community. However, we need help.

The biggest issue we are facing right now is getting the message out. Therefore whether by mouth, phone, email or social media, we need help. That is where you come into play — please share our message.

When you see our content on FacebookTwitter and/or Instagram, please share. When you receive an email update or text message, please share. If you know any groups or leaders that would be interested in volunteering, please share.

This is a grassroots movement, which is the only way it can be sustainable, and you are part of that. Every time you go out and volunteer or spread the word about the Call, you are helping make Kansas City into a better place.

It starts with an idea, then action and finally commitment. Thank you for your dedication towards creating a better world for others.

WHY WE VOLUNTEER

Knowledge is power. The cliché has been washed, rinsed and reused over and over again because it’s true. Yet, at times, the adage simply falls short.

In truth, knowledge is power, but is powerless without action.

“However, the average homeless person is a child or young adult. What we are talking about are students who … are sleeping in shelters, on couches and even in the streets.”

I didn’t realize that until my mid-20s. Growing up, I knew people were suffering. I saw the street beggars — the hungry, homeless and hurting. Yet, I rarely did anything about it. I had the knowledge of those in need, some desperately searching for help, but I did nothing about it.

It wasn’t until I had a change in my heart, a touch from God so to speak, that I understood my foolishness. Caring is about more than just saying you want to help. It’s the action behind that talk which matters — caring is action.

I know that’s a simple realization, but one that’s forgotten every hour of every day of every year. And because of that we need reminders. Thanks to Jerry Lamartina and the Kansas City Star, we have a great refresher this week to why we volunteer.

Take five minutes and read Lamartina’s feature in last week’s local paper. Then, do something about it. Parlay the emotions you feel into something that is greater than yourself. Contact us or the organizations themselves in this story and find out how you can help.

You have the knowledge, now take the power — get involved.