Janice Grabowski started volunteering at Villa Maria, a treatment program for children between the ages of three and 12 who are experiencing emotional and behavioral problems, in September of 1986. Ms. Grabowski has shown up week after week ready to tackle whatever assignment awaits her ever since. Every visit is unpredictable with children who have psychiatric and behavioral problems.
Ms. Grabowski has given much of her time and effort to the children, particularly the girls, at Villa Maria's Residential Treatment facility. As an apartment volunteer, she has provided the girls with valuable resources. Through this role, Ms. Grabowski initiates arts and crafts activities, egg hunts, cooking sessions, and often plans special recreational activities, such as Bingo Night and Karaoke Night. She even brings games and prizes and always provides assistance to staff whenever she is needed. In addition to her role as an apartment volunteer, Ms. Grabowski also serves as a mentor. Over the years, she has often been matched with children that find it difficult to express their feelings. These girls have exhibited anger on several occasions, sometimes totally rejecting Ms. Grabowski's efforts. She does not give up, nor does she personalize such temporary setbacks. Rather, she is consistent, encouraging, and patient. Through outings, activities, and talks, she tries to foster relationships where she and the children she is matched with can try to explore the world and learn to understand it a little better.
The issue of trust with many of the children at Villa Maria has created many difficult barriers in forming and developing meaningful relationships with volunteers. A one-sided relationship, week after week, can be frustrating and not very enjoyable. As a volunteer at Villa Maria, one might begin to question if time spent there is really appreciated, especially if the child seems to pay little attention and shows no emotion during visits. Wondering if she was getting through to them, Ms. Grabowski came face to face with this issue only to discover, one year later, in a letter from a child, how wrong she was about these feelings. In this letter, the child shared with Ms. Grabowski how thankful she was for the time they had spent together. The child wrote, "I made it through because of you. Thanks!" This letter confirmed for her, and others, that what she was doing was important, and that she was making a difference in her community.