I guess it’s only natural to focus on the challenges of each stage of life; but how much more rewarding it is when we seek out the opportunities presented, especially when they involve enriching the life of another. Though I am considered a “senior citizen,” I plan to always be open to serving others through volunteering.
Growing up as a pastor’s daughter, there were endless opportunities to teach younger children, by working in the nursery or being a counselor at summer day camp. My parents wisely instilled in me a lifelong desire to give to others. And this is a trait and practice that we can pass on to young people by not only offering them more opportunities to serve but by also continually being an example of servanthood.
As a young wife and elementary school teacher, I was a foster parent for a year to child from my school. After that year, he was able to reunify with his family. Though not the easiest year of my life, it definitely was one of the most rewarding. I have since reconnected with this young man--15 years later--and have learned how that the year with us helped to set him on the right path for adulthood. One of the major goals of FCNI is to empower families to be fully functional and to stay together. This is a goal that is very close to my heart, especially after my time caring for this young boy and helping his family heal.
As my own children grew, I started teaching high school. My heart went out to those students who I could sense were “under-parented.” My classroom door was always open during their lunch break, and students knew they were welcome to come in and talk anytime they needed to. I still am in contact with many of these people today, over a decade later. I found that even teaching high school math, I could reinforce respect for others, ethics and integrity. Even in the busiest seasons of life, we can keep our eyes open for a neighbor or coworker who could benefit from a listening ear or an affirming word.
My second experience with being a Resource Family came about twelve years ago when a teenage girl we had become close to was on the verge of being homeless. Her divorced parents were unemployed and dealing with substance abuse. She lived with us for three years, gaining confidence and self-worth. She is now in a wonderful marriage, has a one-year old son and is working on getting her master’s degree in education. Being her “Grandma” is one of the most precious things in my life!
I was introduced to the Family Care Network just before I took early retirement from teaching. I was amazed at the broad scope of fabulous services offered by FCNI. I began as an Americorps volunteer, working with mentors and Cal Poly interns. I enjoyed helping with training and oversight, but my favorite part was matching children and teens with mentors and tutors, and following these enriching relationships. I continued volunteering with FCNI, finding joy in helping with events and training.
Now that I’ve been a Board Member for over six years, I find my role at FCNI evolving once again. The Executive Team is extremely visionary and committed to excellence. FCNI is a leader in its field, not only statewide but nationally. I am so impressed by the entire staff and their commitment to their mission and clients. As we move forward into our 31st year, I am inspired by everyone at FCNI and our mission to further dedicate myself to help affirm FCNI’s staff and support them in any way that I can as a Board member.
What opportunities are presenting themselves at your season in life? There are many ways to bless the clients of FCNI with your time, talents and compassion. Events throughout the year offer various short-term roles for volunteers. Career Mentors can have an impact on older students. Mentors and tutors make a longer, ongoing commitment to children and youth. And Resource Families can foster and/or adopt a child who is a victim of circumstance. The rewards of changing a life through FCNI are immeasurable!
Anyone can call FCNI and talk to a Volunteer Coordinator or Resource Family Coordinator, and discover the many ways that they can partner with FNCI--whether for a few hours, on a weekly basis or longer term commitments such as opening your home to a foster child. If you take advantages of these many opportunities, be ready to brace yourself for huge rewards!