Volunteers are part of what is best about The Children’s Shelter. The Shelter is a private, nonprofit, nationally accredited agency that has provided emergency shelter and adoption services to San Antonio and Bexar County children since 1901. Today, the Shelter also offers foster care, child development services, abuse prevention programs, and nationally recognized teen pregnancy programs. Its mission is to effect positive change in the lives of children through advocacy and quality serviced focused on protection, intervention and prevention.
To frightened children who are brought to the door, the Shelter provides love, safety and volunteers hugging and telling them how special they are.
Volunteers—160 individuals and 70 groups—give more than 14,000 hours a year to abused, abandoned and neglected children who are in the care of The Children’s Shelter. They hold and rock infants, read stories, play games, and help with meals. They teach preschoolers, parents/caregivers and teachers about personal safety and abuse prevention. They work in administrative offices and on special projects such as golf tournaments, school supply drives and radio-thons. When there are foster parent meetings, volunteers are there to take care of the children.
The Shelter continually works to build relationships with community, corporate and civic groups throughout the area. Every week, they participate in children’s activities that include field trips, parties and game nights.
Volunteer screening is rigorous, and the program requires eight hours of orientation and training. Volunteer ages range from 18 to 77. The Volunteer Council facilitates dialogue to address the strengths, weaknesses and growth of the volunteer program. Council members represent each Shelter program and serve as a source of communication between volunteers and the agency. The Council Chair sits on the agency-wide Continuous Quality Improvement Committee. A monthly newsletter fosters a sense of community and gives volunteers the opportunity to learn about one another. This year, 150 volunteers representing individuals and groups attended the Shelter’s Annual Recognition Banquet to receive thanks for their dedication.
During April’s Volunteer Appreciation Week, the staff wear a “We Love Our Volunteers” sticker. If a volunteer does something special, staff will present him/her with a certificate stating, “I caught you in the act of caring.” Quarterly socials hosted by the Council for all volunteers are held at different locations around the city.
Recently, one of the Shelter’s long-time volunteers, Gordon Wing, received the health and human services “Volunteer of the Year” award from the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County. The city’s largest awards program recognizes those who have dedicated their time and talents in service to others.