Service, self-discovery (and Celine Dion)

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Service, self-discovery (and Celine Dion)

Categories: Blog, Get Involved, News, Volunteer

When you sign up to volunteer with YWCA Dayton, you can expect a day filled with service – and also, most likely, a Celine Dion-inspired playlist.

“If you believe that women still need to be empowered and racism still needs to be eliminated, by the time you walk in and greet me, you will be asked if you are On a Mission with us,” explains Kelsi Martinez, volunteer coordinator. “These are hard conversations to have; these topics are difficult. But I have never had a volunteer say ‘No, this isn’t for me.’ I truly believe that for all of our volunteers, our mission really speaks to their core. They are just as bold as our mission is.”

In 2019, more than 700 volunteers provided nearly 4,000 hours of both direct and indirect assistance to YW’s core programs: domestic violence shelter, rape crisis services, 24/7 crisis hotline, supportive housing, Girls LEAD!, and racial justice advocacy. From serving dinner in our shelter kitchen to sorting clothing in our Hope’s Closet, each volunteer provides essential support – and brings their unique personality and perspective.

“There is not a typical volunteer at YWCA Dayton,” Martinez said. “We offer such a wide variety of positions that it requires volunteers to show up as individuals. I love that our volunteer program is growing, and I like seeing new faces and new people who want to be On a Mission with us.”

Many volunteers have had a longstanding presence at YW – with groups like Apostolic Lighthouse Church, Mending Meals, and Tzu Chi serving for a decade or more – making it easy to get to know Martinez (and what songs she’s likely to turn up to 10 during a volunteer shift).

“When we had to make the difficult, but necessary, decision to place in-person volunteering on hold due to COVID-19, I immediately got responses of ‘What can I do’ and ‘What do you need.’ One volunteer sent me an empowering playlist because she knows how much I love playing music while our volunteers are onsite,” Martinez said. “They are the best.”

Despite the pandemic, Martinez is still celebrating National Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 19-25) with a social media campaign; and there are still ways to support YWCA Dayton virtually during this time of social distancing.

“I never know what you’re going to experience when you volunteer with us; that’s what makes it fun,” Martinez said. “I can give you the volunteer instructions – turn the stove to this temperature, put the dishes here – but I can’t tell you if you’re going to have a soulful conversation with a client, or what emotions or knowledge you’re going to gain from this experience. That’s a journey I leave open for volunteers to travel down. Their connectivity to our organization is a self-discovery, and it’s why I like my job so much.”

Learn more about two of our volunteers HERE and HERE.