Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Alice Roberts. During the third annual Global Volunteer Month, we celebrate the power of people who tackle society’s greatest challenges, and build stronger, more vibrant communities through volunteerism and everyday actions, like Alice. Read her story, and join the Global Volunteer Month celebration.
For Hanford and Armona, California, community members, St. Brigid Community Outreach Center is a pillar they can depend on in times of need. Thousands of citizens turn to them each year for food, clothing, diapers, toys during the holidays and other household needs. Helping to run the program behind the scenes is Alice Roberts, the office volunteer coordinator and a dedicated volunteer herself since 2010.
A self-described “gopher” for the nonprofit, Alice handles everything from overseeing daily operations to grant writing, technical troubleshooting and tracking the budget. She personally led an upgrade from the center’s use of a paper tracking system to a digital program. Alice can be found at St. Brigid every single day that they are open for operation, with a passion for helping her community and a readiness to serve others.
What does the St. Brigid Community Outreach Center do?
We are a ministry of St. Brigid Catholic Church with the purpose of serving needy members of the Hanford and Armona communities here in central California with emergency food, clothing, and other available resources, regardless of their religious preference or recognition. Anyone who is a member of our community is eligible to receive services no matter who they are, as long as they meet our basic criteria. We provide services every 30 days, and that includes bags of groceries. They can also shop in what we call our “store” for food, clothing, and household items for themselves and their family members.
Describe your volunteer role with St. Brigid Community Outreach Center.
I am the office volunteer coordinator. I’m second to our director. I work directly under the director of the center, Rosie Cervantes. I’m there every day we’re open, which right now is Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. I oversee the operation of our reception area and also our store and the work our volunteers do with the clients. I do a lot of the paperwork, all of the reporting, troubleshoot the computers when they go down for our database collection for our clients, and sort of troubleshoot when we have a volunteer who is having difficulty in working with a particular client. I also am backup at our reception desk in processing clients into our center. I helped to get our database set up. I’ve helped our director with grant writing to help us to get some of the grants we’ve been able to obtain for our center, and with tracking our budget, our expenditures, tracking our volunteer time sheets or work time.
What made you want to volunteer in this way?
I wound up going to one of their open houses because I’m a regular parishioner at St. Brigid’s. I never knew of the center, so I saw what they were doing there and thought, ‘This is something I could do.’ I was retired and wanted a way to give back to my church and my community, and this was an opportunity I saw that I could use some of my talents and abilities to go in and help out whatever way I could.
What about the center has made you want to keep doing this for over a decade?
Seeing the appreciation our clients have for what they are getting. There’s a lot of people in our community who have a need. I enjoy the people I work with. We have a great group of volunteer staff who work both in our pantry area, in the separate area of the center where we accept donations and process the donations that come in, as well as our volunteers in our store and office reception area. I love meeting with the clients and visiting with them when they come in to receive services, because we treat them as apart of our family. It gives me joy to do that, and at the same time I’m doing service that our Lord has asked.
Why do you think it’s important for your community to have a resource like St. Brigid’s?
There is a great need in our community. We’re only open three days a week and only for a little over two and half hours during the day, and we still process over 30 [clients]. Our largest day, just a couple months ago, we had 73 clients come through in one day. If we’re getting that many clients on a daily basis, that means there’s a lot of need out there. A lot of people need our help. That’s what we’re doing. We provide that service to all of our clients to help them meet their needs. It’s great to see them and see that they’re appreciative of what we do and the services they’re receiving. They don’t take it for granted. It’s a joy to be around the volunteers and the clients we have.
What that been the most memorable moment during your time volunteering?
The biggest one for me was the first year that we did the Toys for Tots program at Christmas in conjunction with both the United Way and the U.S. Marine Corp Reserves. I wound up getting asked by the United Way to facilitate the agencies that were going to be distributing our toys. … We used the kids from our parish to come in to the center and assist us with the Toys for Tots program. They and a couple of the parents went out to the base with us to pick up our toys. The day of distribution, we met the families at the front door. Inside we had the youngsters as the runners to take the list of what toys were needed by age and gender, and then they would go back to the center where we had bins full of the toys separated out. The kids would pick the toys to give to other kids. We had a whole group of kids, from ages six to even some of the high school kids. Seeing these kids getting involved with that idea of giving back, either by working at the front desk or also working as runners to help with the toy program — seeing that interaction with the kids helping do that was fantastic. That was awesome.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding is seeing the clients that we know need our assistance and we’ve been able to help them. Even those clients who come in and maybe there’s something missing from the paperwork we need from them, we’re able to work with them and help them and see their appreciation when we are able to assist them. It’s the clients who we serve and it’s the volunteers I work with that help me in my job.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
No matter who you are, how old you are, or what you physical capabilities are, you always have something available to give and to do that will be of benefit to others. Each person is a valuable member of our community, no matter if you’re a client, a visitor, a volunteer. If you’re a volunteer and you treat others with respect, dignity, kindness, tact, and good humor, then you’ll benefit as well. Don’t focus on yourself as much as what you can do for others, and how your talents and skills are useful. I didn’t realize a lot of my talents until I started volunteering, and I realized hey, I’m pretty good at helping to write these grants and going through them to edit them and help to make them even better. It’s been a benefit. Whatever your talents, whether they be computer skills, people skills, organizing, or just being present to someone when they want to talk — your abilities and your skills are important to somebody, so make use of them.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Alice? Find local volunteer opportunities.