Volunteers are the lifeblood of Webster-Rock Hill Ministries.
The organization doesn’t have a lengthy roster of employees. It has only one. But thanks to the dedication and efforts of the WRHM’s 25 or so volunteers — people of various ages, backgrounds and ZIP codes — the organization is able to perform invaluable services to hundreds of area residents each year. The volunteers give of their time and talents for many reasons. And many of them have been doing so for years. “It gives you a good feeling to know that no matter what you are doing,” volunteer Judy Holstein said, “it is helping to improve someone’s life.”
The roles of volunteers at WRHM are many. They help with paperwork, sort donations, tutor students, give legal advice, and fill bags of food and give them to families in need. “There is an opportunity for any skill that someone has to share,” said Mary, who has been volunteering for the organization for the past five years. She meets clients as they come to WRHM and finds out what their needs are. She collects their information, lets them know what the organization can do to help and alerts them to other agencies if such places can somehow better meet their needs. But perhaps most importantly, Mary simply listens. “Sometimes people just need to talk,” she said. “Sometimes we have to give out tissue and encouragement. But sometimes we’re just here to listen. You may not think that’s a part of what we do, but it is. “The work is fulfilling, said Mary, and clients and other volunteers often come to feel like family. “There is a client who loves to talk recipes and loves to talk about her past,” Mary said. “And I enjoy listening to her.”
Beth was born in the Congregational Church and raised on its message of service.“It feels right to help,” she said, a WRHM volunteer for three years. “What better thing can we do in life than help another?” Beth enjoys volunteering with WRHM because she comes to personally know the people who benefit from the organization. “And because you get to know them over time, you are able to help them with their specific needs,” she said. “Here, we have an opportunity to talk one on one and build trust with each other. Clients are not numbers. They are individuals with their own needs, their own problems and their own hurdles.”She recalls a mother who was working her way through junior college. The woman was close to graduating and had lined up an interview for a job she wanted. But she needed help with her utility bills so she and her children could get over one last hump. “We could provide that,” Beth said. “Isn’t it wonderful that there is a place like this that can help someone find his or her way to success?”
It’s the satisfaction of knowing he’s helping someone that has kept Jim volunteering for WRHM for the past six or seven years. Sometimes he helps out at the front desk, but quite often he lugs food up the stairs and loads the items into bags that are then given to clients. His greatest satisfaction is seeing people leave WRHM with food to eat, food they might struggle to have otherwise. “There always seems to be someone in need, and it helps keep them fed,” Jim said. “A lot of people thank me for it. It’s not my food, but it feels good. “For those with spare time who want to use it to do some good for people, this is a great place to come and volunteer,” he said. “The clients are very appreciative.”
After Judy retired from a job keeping the books for the city of St. Louis, she found her knowhow was in need at WRHM. She has since spent seven years as a volunteer working on a range of duties, from secretarial work, to a role on the organization’s Action Council, to helping organize the Christmas program.“I really enjoy being able to help people,” Judy said. “It has been good for me to help.”She recalls an older woman’s joy at receiving groceries and a small gift card during the Christmas program one year. The woman was beyond grateful. “Most people who participate in the Christmas program are very thankful for the items they receive,” she said. “For some, this is all they will get during the holiday season. “People need to remember that not all of Webster Groves is as affluent as people think. There are people here struggling to meet basic needs.”Holstein is eager for WRHM’s planned addition — not only because it will allow room for current programs but for what else it may bring. She would love see programs for seniors and young mothers, among others. “The possibilities,” she said, “are endless."