Volunteer Profile: Laura

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[Khadija, Summer Special Projects Assistant at House of Friendship’s Emergency Food Hamper Program, wrote the following profile.]

There are very few people whom I have met that can be tenacious in spirit and have a calming effect on others. Laura illustrates that fine balance between the two valuable characteristics.  With approximately 93 hours clocked in so far as a volunteer at the Emergency Food Hamper Program (EFHP) since May 22 of 2014 she’s not turning back anytime soon – she’s hooked! Read on more to find out why.

Laura Allan photo

Can you tell me about how you ended up here at the food hamper program?

I looked for volunteer postings online and found out about it there. I’ve been looking for something like this for a long time; nothing else quite engages me as much as being able to have that connection with people coming in and really feel that I am making a difference.

Why do you volunteer here? Is it important to you?

Being able to help someone out when they need that the most and seeing the appreciation is just a nice feeling. It’s always bothered me that I’ve been so incredibly lucky in my life and really haven’t had the opportunity or time (but everyone can find the time if they really want) to help those that aren’t as lucky. It was ultimately my divorce that freed me up and allowed for me to seek out something to get involved in.

What do you enjoy about volunteering at the EFHP?

I think the ability to actually see what you’re doing – it’s a tangible connection there. The [staff and volunteers] are very inviting and very friendly and they are all incredibly genuine; they’re all here for good reasons. I’m usually exhausted when I leave; for some reason it’s incredibly difficult to keep circling around, and it’s not like I’m inactive or anything. Nonetheless there is something about the activity that feels good.

What’s your favourite job at our program?

Packing hampers without a doubt. I don’t mind doing anything else but being able to pack the hampers has a little more variety – it’s more active. And to see the appreciation is nice.

Are there particular reasons you chose House of Friendship?

I didn’t know anything about the House of Friendship. I thought the food bank was where the hampers were created. After getting a sense of what the HOF stood for I came down to visit the EFHP and instantly knew it was the right place for me; I knew that I would be busy and engaged and doing something tangible.

Is there anything you want to share with the community about House of Friendship? (Good or bad!)

First of all, I think it’s incredibly well run – I’m a business professor so I notice that kind of stuff and it annoys me when it’s not. It’s very well run and very efficient. People truly and genuinely care and are very upbeat. It’s amazing to me the ends to which people will go to really make sure people’s needs are met. It’s not thought of as “these people are getting a handout” and “we just have to fill this hamper.”  It’s not that kind of attitude in any shape or form.

The prevailing mentality is that that no matter who you are “everybody falls into situations so don’t make any assumptions.” We are just here to meet your needs with no judgement and hopefully we can make a difference. It’s a really good atmosphere and well run. The people who run it are so inviting and welcoming.

What keeps you busy when you aren’t here? Are there any other programs that you are or have volunteered with?

I’ve volunteered with Junior Achievement which made a lot of sense because it was connected to what I do for a living as business professor. I’ve been a part of a lot of stuff connected to work that really isn’t going to help out anybody that is truly in need.

But I didn’t get that same feeling that I was doing something of value. I baked for Ray of Hope Cancer Centre. But again, I was at home doing that by myself. They appreciated it but it just doesn’t feel the same as being here on the frontlines at the EFHP.

Otherwise, I am a professor at Wilfrid Laurier and I’ve got two older kids who are active. One runs a business and the other one has special needs so they definitely take up a lot of my time. And I ride horses and have a dog.

What do you enjoy about riding horses? Why horses specifically?

I’ve done it since I was ten and it started with a friend of mine who rode horses. So I thought well that would be cool. But I am an animal person and it just was the right thing – I’ve been doing it forever.

Do you have any favourite moments or experiences here?

When a child will come in and there is something in particular they want or if it’s their birthday and you are able to find that cake in the back or that special treat for them. Or I will say to some little kid, “you know I found some really cool granola bars and they are like “Whoa! Thanks!”  They get so happy and for us it’s wonderful to be able to do that for them. One time there was a bicycle outside and the staff here were able to give it to this kid – it was just unbelievable.  They just appreciate it and are so sweet about it. Some of them are so cute.  The kids are the coolest part – I love it, and hope for those moments.

The very day that I interviewed Laura I was getting ready to leave work at the end of the day when a patron came in at the last minute for a hamper; she had her little daughter come with her who had a birthday coming up very soon. The mum explained that they were preparing for the festivities by looking around for dresses and treats for her.  Matt went over to the warehouse and rummaged around in the freezers walking out with a couple of cakes for the little girl to pick out. The excitement from the little one was a joy to witness. It was quite nice being able to experience the feeling that Laura so fondly describes.

 Every time I look over to the warehouse from my desk I notice Laura smiling as she packs hampers and gives them away when interacting with patrons. She seems to be truly enjoying herself and likes being here- it causes for a ravishing glow on her face. It’s infectious and enough to put a smile on anyone else’s face!

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One Response to “Volunteer Profile: Laura”

  1. Keep Paying It Forward In 2016 | Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] Laura shared: […]

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