San Antonio resident, Susan Flores, began her volunteer journey at Haven for Hope in 2017. Every week Susan donates more than 45 hours to the organization whose mission is to offer a place of hope and new beginnings by providing, coordinating and delivering an efficient system of care for people experiencing homelessness in Bexar County. The 70-year-old provides a helping hand to the Volunteer Services team by serving in many roles. Susan is the very first person that individuals encounter at Volunteer Center located at the front of the Haven for Hope campus.
Susan is able to speak from experience regarding every opportunity to volunteer because she has served in every area of the campus from assisting the development team with donor recognition and special events to providing comfort to individuals experiencing homelessness by giving her undivided attention through active listening.
“Susan is a model volunteer who has given back to our organization more than she may ever know,” says DJ Jackson, Volunteer Manager at Haven for Hope, “she carries herself with such grace and humility that is unmatched while donating nearly 2,000 service hours within a year.” Susan is making a difference in her community and is today’s Daily Point of Light Honoree. Points of Light spoke with Susan about her commitment to service.
What inspires you to volunteer?
In volunteering, I find that the world has so much need and yet we also have so much to give…globally. It is my opinion, that if each of us would do what we are able to, then many of our worldwide problems and issues would indeed be eliminated.
Diverse as the needs are, so is the ability for us, as a collective, to overcome those needs. We can meet them; we have the abilities.
In my case, I am a communicator. I love to talk, to learn, and to exchange opinions and ideas with others. I have the good fortune to sit at the front desk of the Volunteer Office, here at Haven for Hope. Because of its location on the campus, it is naturally located to meet those incoming people, whether they are a visiting dignitary or a young parent and her children struggling with homelessness. As I help them in coming to Haven, I feel comfortable in relating with and meeting their initial needs while directing them further into that which is Haven.
Describe your volunteer role.
At my desk, I greet, direct and answer questions for each person who enters. I also do a variety of clerical items, sometimes play the “gopher”, and do miscellaneous elementary art projects and various other things that need to be done but have no staff to attend to them.
What has been the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my work, (if I can separate any part of Haven) is when I am able to help any of our members or guests in solving a problem, no matter how big or small. Homelessness is a very traumatic experience for anyone who might be experiencing it, and know that it could happen to any one of us, at any unexpected time. Thus, to be kind and helpful might seem like a small thing, but to someone in stress it can be just the thing that will soothe their psyche and spirit, even for just a little while, and give them some relief. To smile, say “hello” and chat for a few minutes is uplifting for me, and hopefully it can be a pleasant divergence for those here at Haven.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
Being a volunteer, I have many people stop and thank me for my service. I certainly do understand what they are saying to me, but much of the time, after saying “thank you” to them, I also say that it is I who should be saying “thank you” for all that it means to be a volunteer. Being here at Haven “feeds my soul”. It is humbling. It has made me aware of the importance of being humane. I have been shown how all of us are kindred spirits, that everyone has value and it takes so little to give so much. Of course, I have always known these human values, but until actually physically making a commitment and working as a volunteer, I never had known the humbling power of helping others. I feel that all fields of volunteering have the same beneficial effect for those who serve in them…so whatever the interest might be, that person becomes fulfilled in a similar way…thus, the working of the collective to mitigate the unmet needs of the world. It sounds grandiose, but we aim for the stars.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
Every day here at Hope is exciting. At the Volunteer Center, anything can, and does happen. The most exciting time of year for everyone is rapidly approaching. Starting with Halloween…through Thanksgiving…and on to Christmas. It is the Holiday Season! Of course it is an annual event, but for us, focusing on donations and giving, it is the busiest and a most important time of year. With our large residential population, which includes families, the traditions of giving and celebrations are ongoing. We always have strong support from the community and the activity level at the center is quite high. We try to insure that every person and family has access to a Thanksgiving meal, and that all of the children here at Haven have a Merry Christmas. It may be a lot of work, but it is fun work…and really, what could be a better way to celebrate the Holidays?
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Anyone who has the ability to donate some of their time will find that the rewards greatly outweigh the efforts. I realize that our lives have periods of extreme busyness, with children, families and careers. But many can find a few hours per week to serve, then as our domestic and career demands lessen, time becomes available for others. The warmth of doing something to help other people, beings and things is comforting. It truly does feed the soul and for me, it gives great hope for the future of humanity, for being human.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
It would give me great satisfaction to learn that sharing my joy and enthusiasm for volunteering might encourage others to do the same. The earth is our home. There is much to do to ensure her continued wellbeing and the wellbeing of the living things that share this space. We humans have the ability to help in a diverse way that can touch many issues facing today’s world. I would hope that these important issues would be among the knowledge that others might take away from my experience in volunteering.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Susan Flores? Visit All for Good for local volunteer opportunities!