Name: Niki Van Kirk
Holiday Market Attendant
Started Volunteering: 2017
What are the most critical results you expect our organization to produce?
I expect to see YWCA continue to be a safe haven for women. I am lucky because I have been able to volunteer in several different areas and in direct contact with residents. I have seen women go from downtrodden to empowered. Clients who find jobs and leave the shelter to start life anew. I have been lucky enough to hear their stories of healing after being abused. They are some of the strongest people I know.
When your friends find out that you volunteer with YW, what do they say or ask?
Unfortunately, most don’t know what YWCA is, or they confuse it with the YMCA. Most of them want to know what I do there or why I volunteer there. My friends will tell you that when I talk about my volunteer experience, my face lights up.
When did you first hear about YWCA Dayton?
Honestly, I didn’t even know YWCA existed. I was up one night because of nightmares associated with my PTSD and was researching local groups that help people, and came across YWCA Dayton’s website. I noticed the YWish List and organized a food drive to help cover some of those needs. Then came the Holiday Market, and I collected toys for it and when help was needed for setup, I volunteered. What attracted me to the cause was the fact that it is a group that helps women. So often women’s needs are placed on the back burner. This even applies to issues of homelessness and social justice. Here is a group that is helping women and bringing women’s issues to the forefront. They also accept transgender women and being one, this was of particular interest to me.
How has this volunteer experience changed you?
It has made me really examine some of my core beliefs. It has also shown me where I need to grow as a person.
Is there are particular moment during your volunteer experience with us that stands out?
Last year, during the week of Christmas. I volunteered for more than 50 hours in the shelter kitchen. Christmas Day was really special. I also learned a lot about myself and how deep my desire to help others is. I am a stroke survivor and in constant pain. There were nights that week that left me in so much pain that I cried as I crossed Third Street going to my car. I never gave up, and would return the next day to do it all again. Miss Sheila and Adam [YW food operations team] played critical parts in making that week happen for the clients, and should be proud.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
I am transgender (MtF). My life experiences have made me a dark person, but I will try my best to brighten other people’s day.
Learn more about volunteer opportunities at YWCA Dayton at www.ywcadayton.org/volunteer.