This week marks a national recognition of volunteers and their support of our crucial work. In this challenging season of the COVID-19 pandemic moments of gratitude are even more important, and we’re glad for the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on the incredible work of our volunteers.
Volunteers are critical to our work and we wouldn’t be where if not for their dedication and passion. Dozens of individuals interact with young people every week, working alongside our staff to fulfill our mission. Their roles have changed in light of our current circumstances, but their support has remained constant. We’re honored to share two features of faithful volunteers on our programs, Phil and Gracie.
“I particularly like teenagers,” says Phil Jaffe. He once had some of his own, but when they started going off to college he realized how much he loved being surrounded by young people. He sought out opportunities to reconnect.
In January of 2000, more than 20 years ago, Phil connected to Second Story (then Alternative House) and started volunteering. He comes every Sunday morning and serves brunch.
“I serve a meal, and I get a chance to sit down with the kids. The dynamics are different every week.” He remembers some youth more vividly – a young man whose father and mother passed away in a short span of time and moved into another family member’s tumultuous home. Some of the stories he hears are just “crummy,” he says. Mostly he listens and spends time with the youth.
There’s one young woman he will never forget. “It was a terrible abuse case. A 13 year-old girl came into the program. She’d been physically abused, sexually abused, emotionally abused…she was hanging onto the will to live by her fingertips. It was a dreadful case.” He recalls. And then, “nine years later I was there cooking dinner and in she walks. She showed up briefly to say thank you. I remember asking her, ‘how are you doing?’ and her exact words were, ‘I have good days and I have bad days but I don’t want you to feel sorry for me because I have many more good days than bad days but if it weren’t for the people who rescued me I wouldn’t have any days at all.’”
After 20 years Phil has met hundreds of young people like her, and she certainly is not the only one who remembers the impact of the volunteers and counselors.
Phil’s philosophy on why he’s been at the program for so long is simple. He quotes Abraham Lincoln, “Everybody has got to do their part. I feel good about what the program is able to do. It’s much needed.”
Gracie Dabney learned about Second Story at Custom Ink, where she works. One of our staff had come to talk about our programs and Gracie started thinking. She knew she had some spare time and she wanted to do something valuable with it. She loves kids and her niece had recently moved to Seattle. The idea of giving some of her time to Second Story and getting to spend time with children sounded really exciting.
“I have a lot of respect for mothers, especially single mothers. And I know from working with kids how difficult and time–consuming it can be. So, if I can help for even just a couple of hours…that’s why I do it.”
Gracie spends a couple of hours a week at Second Story for Young Mothers with the children. For the first hour or so she takes care of one or two kids at a time while their moms meet individually with staff and for the second hour there are more kids, usually about 3 to 6, during group therapy. She’s been volunteering for almost two years and has loved the chance to watch the kids grow up and build relationships with them. “It’s really fulfilling to see the kids grow and change. Every week they’re able to do something new, they’re able to communicate in different ways.” She tries to nurture her relationships with each of them.
What sticks with her is “being able to see and be with a child for many months. I am able to see them grow and evolve and learn some skills.” Being able to nurture relationships with the kids. Spending time with them and seeing them grow.
She’s thankful to be a part of this community of support. “We live in a very expensive area and housing specifically is a strain. It’s a majority of many peoples’ paychecks so the fact that [Second Story] is able to give a caring environment where all [the young women] need to focus on is gathering skills so they can be the best mothers they can, I think that is really important.”
She encourages anyone considering volunteering to not second guess themselves. “It’s just really, really fulfilling.”
We’re so thankful for Phil and Gracie’s faithfulness and dedication. Our volunteers are a vital part of our work, and their physical absence is deeply felt right now! Second Story is made up of an enormous team of staff, volunteers, donors, and ambassadors. Every person is an important part of our work. To learn more about how you can join us visit our COVID-19 immediate needs page: