Power of Good - Day 4

This is the fourth in a series of five blog posts featuring local volunteers in honor of National Volunteer Week. Nominated volunteers will be honored with a custom portrait on Friday April 11, 2014 at the Power of Good Show.

Motivated by Mom 

Kathleen Turman

What was your motivation to start volunteering?

 “I started volunteering at a very young age because of my mother.  She has always been a giver, helper, and a kind spirit towards others.  She instilled this passion for volunteering and doing for others early on in life and it has only grown from there.  I’m motivated to volunteer because so many people benefit and it fulfills my desire to help those in need and I feel like I’m actually carrying my worth in the world.  While helping or doing for others, I get joy from their happiness and I know that at any point I may be the one that needs the help of a volunteer.  Volunteering helps keep my mind open and allows me to meet new people, gain new experiences, and do things and touch people in one day that most people don’t get to do in a lifetime.  It’s amazing and I encourage everyone to find a passion and volunteer for it!”

   

Passionate about Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts

Deborah Corliss

“Five years ago I returned to Richmond, Virginia after being gone for over 20 years.  While clearly the area had changed - by that I mean expanded  - so much of the thinking seemed to be what I remembered when I had left.  So much seemed to almost be in a time warp.  Upon returning I remember seeing an article in the RTD about a significant amount of money being spent to study why more children of color did not apply to the Maggie Walker School.  It seemed odd that RPS did not have a handle on this without spending $150,000.

Next my son taught one summer at The Learning Bridge, a program housed at Collegiate School but focused on Richmond inner-city youth who either displayed academic talent, or teachers believed had untapped talent.  I remember visiting the program at my son's insistence and asking the Executive Director how many students Collegiate had identified in the program and offered scholarships.  The response was, none.  But it turned out not to be a Collegiate issue but one that RPS did not want any "skimming of the cream".  This too seemed a bit odd to me.

These experiences along with having a son who had significant learning differences and academic challenges encouraged me to reach out to PHSSA when they advertised for a person to fill the Secretary position.  Upon first meeting the group I was taken in by their dedication and passion.  And while the Secretary position was already filled by the time I contacted them I was hooked.  To see how a small group of dedicated and passionate people can come together make real change is an experience everyone should have the opportunity to experience.  I have been associated with PHSSA for over five years and was recently elected Co-Chair of the Board. 

Over 40% of the children attending public schools in the US are attending charter schools.  The charter movement is huge in the US as a result of our falling behind so much in education....particularly in urban areas.  Individuals with resources have options for their children but children living in the inner city only have their area school.  Patrick Henry provides another option for these children, another way of approaching education.  Education is not a "one size fits all" as I discovered with my son.  Put in the right environment with the right instruction a child who did not read until the end of second grade went on to attend one of the top liberal arts schools in America. But had we not had the resources and education ourselves to direct him, he may never have obtained the success he has.

Every child should have the opportunity to thrive in an educational environment that is right for them, and allows them to become all they can be.  At the end of this school year my 3 years on the board will be up but I intend to continue to work toward greater school choice and options for all the children of Richmond.  Why, because it is the right thing to do for all children in Richmond, not just the ones fortunate to come from families who know where to find the best for them.  Our parents know they are providing something different for their children that may allow for them to achieve in ways they were never able to achieve.  PHSSA needs to survive and thrive to provide that option for those parents who may have no other.”



Encouraging Paralyzed Veterans

Jimmy May

Jimmy May has been a driving force behind our volunteers. He has relentlessly attended events to help promote the PVA and all we do for our paralyzed veterans. What makes Jimmy an awesome volunteer is that he pushes other paralyzed veterans, friends and family to participate. Jimmy sees volunteers as a way to help the organization but also to help veterans find more support, live their life after their injury and support our mission. Jimmy has been involved in everything from community events, NASCAR fundraisers, and sporting events to anything the PVA has asked him to attend. He is a tireless volunteer, who even in a chair out runs many of us in giving back!  

 

Working to Bring Awareness to Mental Illness - “Must come from the Heart”

Kathy Harkey

What advice can you give to future volunteers?

Volunteer work must come from the heart. It's all about helping others and making a positive contribution to the community in which we live. What you give to help others today will come back to you ten-fold. A positive attitude and smiling face make volunteer's shine!”

Kathy has worked tirelessly to bring education and awareness about mental illness to the Richmond Community.  She is involved in a host of community and advisory groups that deal with mental illness from suicide prevention to housing.  She provides presentations on a voluntary basis to a variety of groups including faith communities, policy officers, first responders, health care providers, etc.  She is an ASIST trained leader and provides these trainings to community member to help them be more prepared to recognize and support an individual who may be suicidal.

 

 

A Circle of Hope – Living Through Cancer

Linda Hochstein

“I am in a breast cancer support group, Circle of Hope, and I had a dinner at my home (I volunteered, teehee) and I had the gals read "ONE GOOD DOG" by Susan Wilson.  A pit bull is telling his story about being in the fighting ring and getting out.  A survivor, and I contacted ring dog rescue and asked Tonya to bring a couple pit bulls to my dinner, as I know these ladies would be afraid of them at an adoption place or walking down the street somewhere if someone was walking them.  I wanted them to touch Moses and Buster and know they were just dogs that wanted to be loved and want to survive as we do.   

The funny thing was about 2 months later, we were at another Val's house for book club and her dog Bonnie, which she always talked about came walking into the room.  I asked Betsy to "look"at Bonnie.  Yes, she was yellow and had fur like a yellow lab, but everything else was Pitbull.  I mentioned to the ladies that Bonnie was just a dog to be loved and very lucky to have loving owners.”

  

 

Never Be Afraid to Do Good

 Nathalia Artus

Give some advice for the next generation of awesome volunteers. 

“My best advice for the next generation of awesome volunteers is: never be afraid to do good! Volunteering involves being in different places, making new friends that you wouldn’t meet otherwise, getting in touch with your community, experiencing new cultures and much more that could be scary and trigger fears. Do not be afraid – let it go and do good! It will teach you something new everyday and it will make you grow everyday.

My other goal as a volunteer, besides doing good and helping to build our community, is to get more people to volunteer and embrace volunteerism as part of their lives. You have no idea the excuses people come up not to participate and donate time because they are afraid of meeting people and places different than what they are used to.”

  

Volunteering with Folks on the Path to Reentry

Peter Henry

“I started volunteering at [Offender Aid and Restoration of Richmond] in 2008 for a two different (but not unrelated) reasons.

First of all, I had finally become aware of the challenges of incarceration and re-entry, and how particularly acute those challenges are in the state of Virginia --and in the Richmond metro region in particular. I came to realize that I was quite lucky that I did not ever have to experience these challenges firsthand, and I began to recognize that I had a duty to those who have gone through this struggle and are working against the incredible difficulties of re-entry.

Secondly, after many years of personal and professional ups and downs, I had by 2008 finally reached a period of profound stability in my life: I had a good job, a city I liked, good health, excellent friends and family. I realized that (a) I needed to be thankful for my incredible good fortune; (b) I would never be able to pay back all of the people (teachers, friends, mentors, family) who made my life possible; (c) I needed to find a way of trying to settle up. Volunteering at OAR was the result.”

Atlee HS Senior Working with Guide Dogs for the Visually Impaired

Peyton Krevonick

 Tell us about an amazing or an amazingly terrible volunteer experience.

“Two years ago, while researching a project for the Hanover County Global Youth Project, I discovered Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB), which is a non-profit organization that provides Guide Dogs for the visually impaired men and women. I was able to give my time 24/7 to train and work with a pup and it allowed me the opportunity to educate the community about disabilities issues and to strengthen my discover to help others. The hardest part of the program is returning my pup to GEB, where they complete their formal harness training. It was so hard letting my pup go after 16 months together, but I know I helped raise a dog that will change someone’s life profoundly. Witnessing the amazing bond each dog shares with its vision impaired partner made it all worthwhile. I am raising my third pup for the GEB and it hurts giving up my pup at the end of the 16 months, but it feels good too. I have enjoyed recruiting other families to take on raising pups, so far I have recruited two families.  So as you can see this is both an amazing adventure and terrible in that I miss each pup.”

Peyton Krevonick – Atlee High School – Class of 2014

 

 

Place the Needs of the Community Before the Dollar

 Prabir Mehta

Give some advice for the next generation of awesome volunteers.

“One of the largest struggles in getting people together to do nearly anything is money.  A budget is usually necessary to ensure that the right people and right tools are available to achieve the task at hand.  Though this is a very true statement it ignores the fundamental aspect of a community project, necessity.  Before the budget, before the staff, the donors, the campaigns, or anything else there must be awareness of a need that is currently being unmet.  I am floored and honored to say that some of the most talented and influential minds I've worked with have understood this need.  A true community minded individual will place the needs of the community before the dollar.  A proper assessment of the issue, tools, partner, helpers, thinkers, doers, and goals will pave the path towards the beginnings of a budget, but without a true awareness of the issue the solution and the budget will have more difficulty manifesting themselves.  I'm not saying I am the poster child for advice by any means, but if I could say a few words to encourage others that are interested in helping out I would simply say get involved.  If you truly feel passionate and moved to help, then please help, let the money find you later.  Critical issues do not solve themselves, they require motivated and honest action.” 

 

 

“Be Kind”

Rebecca Early

Becky has been volunteering with us at the Autism Society Central Virginia since August of 2013.  She volunteers in numerous capacities.  She always has a smile for the individuals with autism and families that we support and is always willing to do whatever is needed to help us support the needs of those affected by autism in the Central Virginia area.

What was your motivation to start volunteering?

“I was motivated to volunteer through two inspiring quotes:

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle." - Various

"Everyone is a genius. But, if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid." - Albert Einstein” 

 

A Profound Sense of Gratitude 

Susheela Varky

 What was your motivation to start volunteering?

I grew up in a very small town (square mile) in New Jerse right outside of NYC. No bars, no high rise apartment buildings, no movie theaters (we had to walk to the next town), no fast food restaurants and no funeral parlors. Footloose-esque, one might say. And a far cry from the extremely diverse NYC neighborhood where I was born. Some of the White kids in this new podunk town made me feel like a 2nd class citizen (as my family was one of the few families of color circa 1972 when we moved from NYC). My parents were well-educated, devout Christians from South India. They grew up in villages where wealthy people lived right next door to extremely poor families. It was common for those with more to feed their poor neighbors on a regular basis, even daily. My parents instilled in me a sheer gratitude for opportunities in America I would never have had if I had grown up in India. So, I believe the synthesis of these qualities--being an outsider, appreciating what my parents had made possible for me and absorbing my parents' culture of giving to those who are less fortunate--motivated me to volunteer.”

 

Susheela is a member of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance Governing Body (our board of directors). As the past Facilitator (President), she guided the agency through the loss of a 20-year Director and a huge organizational upheaval---bringing the feisty attorney persona that serves her well at the Virginia Poverty Law Center to the challenges she faced in her leadership of the Action Alliance. She also gives us the benefit of her artistic talents--designing and creating the beautiful fused glass pins that are given to Lifetime Members of the Action Alliance who contribute at least $1,000 to support our work. We were thrilled when Susheela herself became one of our very first Lifetime Members! Susheela will be required by term limits to step down from the Governing Body in June, but her 6 years of service will be long remembered.