5 Questions with a Volunteer: Part 1

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

As you saw in the infographic we shared yesterday, volunteers can be found across 26 different Central City Concern programs and locations. For National Volunteer Week, we want to bring you into the volunteer experience by focusing on a special place in the CCC community: the supportive housing program at the Martha Washington building. The Martha Washington serves an incredibly diverse set of residents, among them: female veterans, people in recovery as well those not in recovery, and people living with varying degrees of mental illness (anywhere from daily depression to schizophrenia). 

We sat down with two of the Martha Washington's long-serving volunteers to ask them five questions each about their volunteerism. Their responses were encouraging, insightful, and humble—a true testament to the type of volunteers CCC is lucky to have.

First, meet Anne Nutwell, a long-serving volunteer who facilitates a popular arts and crafts activities group for the Martha Washington residents.

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Anne Nutwell, Volunteer Art Group Facilitator; has been volunteering for 2+ years

Why do you volunteer?
Unlike my job where I have an agenda that I need to accomplish, when I’m volunteering I have a lot more freedom and creativity. I got to choose what kind of volunteer position I wanted to ask to be included in and it’s really fun. It’s really enjoyable to be able to bring things that I know people are looking forward to. When I bring a project to the MW, everyone’s like “it’s the arts and crafts girl! What kind of projects did you bring today?” I do work there, but it doesn’t feel like work.

What do you feel like you “bring to the table” when you volunteer?
I want to make sure that what I’m bringing is something that’s going to be accessible. I spend a good amount of time looking for projects and testing the projects before I bring them so that I know they’re going to work out how I think they are. I know people who... some people are arts and crafts people and some people are just “oh that sounds like fun” and I want to make sure that what I bring is accessible to everyone, not just people who are already into arts and crafts. I’d like to think that I approach things with forethought and planning that help the project be accessible and fun for everyone.

What do you enjoy about volunteering?
I try not to have a lot of expectations and instead let people be where they are. I know that sounds sort of hippy. There are some people who show up frequently, some people who show up occasionally, there are some people who have come and realize that this is just really not for them. Everybody is where they are at in their lives and I get to meet them there. And so I really try and just be open to what’s going on. And if somebody gets really inspired and really enjoys a project then that’s awesome; and if somebody is like that’s not for me then I want to make sure that they feel like I acknowledge and appreciate their experience.

What have you learned through volunteering?
I think the most interesting or striking thing that I’ve learned is how to occupy space in a way that is welcoming and helpful and warm but still very respectful. I want to make sure that everything that I’m doing, you understand where my intention comes from, and that I communicate my willingness to do what I’m saying I’m going to do, but also the fact that at any time you can say no and I will be ultimately respectful of what you want.

Volunteering here has really informed how I interact with people. I think my experience at the Martha Washington has really informed my presence.

Why do you choose to donate your time to CCC and the Martha?
I love the diversity of people I get to interact with. I know that folks are in really different places in their lives. It’s really enjoyable to get to interact with so many different people in a way that’s fun and informal. I really enjoy getting to see everyone’s real personality and getting to interact with them in a really genuine way.

I used to live in Old Town. I actually used to live in the apartments right across the street from the Sally McCracken Building. That’s part of why I thought to volunteer with CCC. The whole organization and the focus on essentially the people who used to be my neighbors feels really important. There are lots of ways to spend time and attention to try and help people but it feels really personal when I work with this organization. It feels like it’s helping people I used to pass on my way to work and I just love that so much and I appreciate the folks who work every day with these people.