New to Seattle, unfamiliar with the area and eager to make a connection, Shawna-Jane decided that getting busy would be the best way to get on the path to establishing herself. After a search for volunteer opportunities, she narrowed her choices to women’s shelters, a place where she had no previous experience but where she thought she could be helpful. She chose Elizabeth Gregory Home.
After meeting with staff, Shawna-Jane worked out a schedule that allowed her to come in at convenient times for her. Her work involves distributing items from the dispensary that the women need for daily life, such as socks, clothing, toothpaste, or soap. She also helps out in the kitchen, enjoying not only the preparation of the meals but also the company of the other women as they share a meal together. Shawna-Jane says that this work has, “helped me find a purpose. I feel I’m a needed part of the support team. It’s also helped me as I work through my own recovery.”
Knowing how to interact with the clients is something the staff helped Shawna-Jane get comfortable with. Clients have many different issues in addition to homelessness; all are in need of thoughtful support and personal interactions. Guidelines for volunteers are very clear about what is expected, such as protecting client confidentiality and maintaining appropriate boundaries. Shawna-Jane understands that supporting the values of EGH, namely respect, inclusion, empathy, and community, is a key ingredient to her work at EGH.
The feeling of a shared community is one that Shawna-Jane values greatly. She says, “One thing that I love to do is to work with Valerie in the kitchen. It’s such a homey feeling, a loving lady making a meal that we share. You can forget your problems, talk to everyone as equals.” Learning from the clients, seeing how they handle their lives, has shown Shawna-Jane the courage the women possess. She is amazed at their ability to lift other people’s spirits while they are facing many challenges of their own. “I want to be productive, do what I can while I’m here. Through my work at EGH, I feel like I’m doing that.”