Yesterday, you met the first of two volunteers who give their time at CCC's supportive housing program at the Martha Washington building. Today, meet Janet Hammer, who has spent the last two years bringing laughter, games, and even Thanksgiving dinners to the Martha Washington residents.
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Janet Hammer, All-purpose Volunteer; has been volunteering for 2+ years
Why do you volunteer with CCC and the Martha Washington?
I think a lot of it stems from knowing that “there but for the grace of God go I.” It’s a hard world and it’s getting harder every day and crueler to those who don’t have the means in this world. When I hear that things have been taken away from people here because of funding cuts, that just drives me crazy. It makes me mad that things are taken away from people who don’t have that much and are trying so hard, but are slapped down by this world. That’s why I volunteer.
[What brought me to CCC is that] I read about the wonderful thing you do for vulnerable people who have just had surgery [CCC’s Recuperative Care Program]. Where the hell are people [in that situation] supposed to recover? Who even thinks about that for these people? And that did something for me. That you guys did something that touched my heart, and that was a big part of it.
What is it about the folks who live at the Martha Washington that you enjoy so much?
What struck me so much when I was first there is the generosity of the people who have little or nothing. It floors me. Absolutely floors me. I find that so many of the people there are really very nice and do need the help. They’ve landed in these situations not by being bad people—so many people have that feeling that if you were homeless that you did some bad thing in your life or were wasteful and that is just not the case! There are so many great people there.
What do you feel like you “bring to the table” when you volunteer?
Honestly, I don’t know… I hope it’s something! I’ve got a good sense of humor and we spend a lot of time laughing. I don’t feel like I do anything big or special at all. I just feel lucky to be who I am and if I can help somebody to make their life just a little bit easier, I’d like to do that.
What have you learned through volunteering?
Not knowing a lot when I first got there, people would tell me some problems they were going through and I would say “Oh, what about this? Or what about that?” and I’ve learned—Dale [Noonkester, the Martha Washington's Resident Service Coordinator] mostly—to just shut up and listen. That’s what people need more than anything: somebody who hears them.
What is an experience you've had while volunteering that makes you smile?
I had just started painting after not doing it for 40 years. I mentioned it to someone at the Martha Washington and she says “Oh, wait just a minute!” and she ran to her room and brought me an art magazine that was so very helpful and wonderful. I’ll never forget that. It was so sweet and so generous and so open and giving.