Volunteering in the Living Room - Part 1

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

At Central City Concern, we strive to create a volunteer program in which everyone benefits. At its best, volunteerism becomes a win-win-win proposition: CCC benefits from the additional support, the individuals giving their time feel fulfilled, and the people with whom the volunteers interact feel valued.

During National Volunteer Week, we’re taking a peek into the Living Room, a program of the Old Town Recovery Center (OTRC), to understand the diverse people and ways volunteerism benefits.

The Living Room is a shared, safe place for OTRC patients, many of whom are actively living with and managing behavioral and mental illness. It functions as a place for clients to come and engage in group sessions, hang out, find community, and participate in group activities. Anyone who participates in the Living Room – clients, CCC staff members, interns, and volunteers alike – is known as a member.

Living Room volunteers give their time in a number of ways: helping to serve breakfast and cleaning up; leading activities like yoga, crafts, or board games; participating in group sessions with other Living Room members; or even simply coming to the Living Room to hang out for several hours each week.

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Seth and Jason*, CCC clients who have both been members of the Living Room for a long while, graciously gave their time to tell us their thoughts about Living Room volunteers.

To start, it was clear that Seth and Jason held high opinions of the folks who come to the Living Room to volunteer their time.

“They’re really nice people who have a really good attitude,” Jason said. “You can tell they have a positive outlook on life.”

Seth echoed Jason, saying that “the volunteers are positive people. If you need somebody to talk to, we can talk to them pretty easily.”

When asked what kinds of activities they participated in with volunteers, Jason and Seth broke out into smiles while recounting the many different things they did together.

“I’ve done pottery with volunteers,” Seth said. “And sometimes I like to just talk with them.”

Jason followed without missing a beat. “I do yoga with Andrea. She’s very nice. Sometimes I play word games and board games with the volunteers, too.”

Both Seth and Jason identified some special characteristics in the individuals who volunteer their time.

“Volunteers can’t be judgmental here, and they’re not!” Jason said. “They have an interest in who you are. In who I am. It makes me feel good.”

Seth, perhaps continuing his train of thought from talking about what he liked doing with volunteers, became a bit more pensive before saying, “I trust them because they listen to me.”

Just before ending our time together, Jason and Seth were asked if they were thankful for the Living Room volunteers.

Without hesitation, and in voices that thundered in the small room, they both exclaimed, “Yeah!”

*Name changed to protect privacy