Expectations Thwarted | A Volunteer's Perspective from Robin Howe

After a fair share of volunteer experiences at shelters, rehab homes and community centers, I arrived at Homes and Havens expecting a familiar scene: a few old sofas, perhaps a coffee table from the fifties and a tattered rug. A stack of Styrofoam cups, single ply napkins and packaged past sell date baked goods would accompany complimentary coffee. Understandably so, many centers stretch their dollars to meet the  central cause. Volunteers do not expect more then the minimum. 

When I walked into Homes and Havens on McCallie Ave, I wasn’t just surprised, I actually instantly felt good…really good. Large open space, freshly painted white walls, calming neutrals and plants filled the work space.  An assortment of teas and a new electric kettle were on the side table. A visual person welcoming calm tones and light, I was in not a haven but a kind of heaven. If this place was to use a shoestring budget to create comforting homes for women, they clearly knew what they were doing.

The volunteer jobs for the day were simple: painting furniture. However, I was not pulling out left over cans of yard sale avocado green to coat dilapidated bureaus. Instead, lightly used quality furniture would be painted fresh white coats. The message: this furniture was to show women that they were worth something really nice.  Surroundings could boost their self-esteem.

As a volunteer, I did not merely take something substandard and make it satisfactory. No, I actually helped to create something beautiful which these women so heartily deserve. Neither exhausting nor emotionally trying, the paint sessions are a feel good experience. I will undoubtedly return again and recommend it to others.

Written by Robin Howe