Q1: Which organization(s) are you a part of?
JM & MMM: We are co-founders of Restoration Rome, a project of Global Impact International to re-purpose Southeast Elementary into a hub for foster, adoption, and family services.
Q2: What does a typical day look like for you?
JM & MMM: There are no typical days at Restoration Rome! Some days are spent away from RR, raising awareness about our foster crisis, sharing about efforts through RR to re-imagine foster care, or training community partners in trauma-informed care. Our favorite days are probably those spent on site interacting with people who visit RR for needed services or who serve as volunteers. On those days, we are likely to have generous folks from the community dropping off donations of children’s clothes or diapers, foster parents dropping by to pick up necessities for a child who has just come into their home, families coming together for supervised visitation, children enjoying the afterschool program, and collaborative meetings with child welfare-related organizations taking place.
Q3: What is the most fulfilling part of your work?
JM & MMM: The most fulfilling part of our work is seeing hope restored. The way that happens is different, depending on the person we are serving. For the five-year-old little boy who has just entered care and been separated from everything and everyone he knows, the restoration of hope may begin with a visit to RR’s Hope Chest to pick out a gently used toy and soft fleece blanket that will be all his own. For the foster parent who received a baby girl during the wee hours of the morning, but didn’t have the supplies to care for her, hope in that journey of service might also begin with a visit to the Hope Chest to collect some diapers, clothes, and a bouncy seat – all things provided by folks from our community whose generosity communicates to that foster mom and dad that they are not alone. For the adoptive parents struggling to care for a teenage daughter whose trauma history has led to self-harming behavior, hope may come through free trauma-informed classes that equip families to better promote deep healing or through connection with our onsite child therapists or psychiatrist who can provide needed support and understanding. For the birth parent overwhelmed by hurdles to family reunification, hope may come through connection and a mentoring relationship with our encouraging and supportive visitation center staff. For the single mom of five, seven, and nine-year-old siblings living next door to RR and struggling to make ends meet, hope may come through our YMCA-led afterschool program where her children can be safe while she is at work and receive a nutritious supper to end their day. No matter the vehicle of hope at RR, the response tends to be the same: a big smile that comes from the heart. Those are the moments that fulfill us and remind us of our why.
Q4: What is your favorite memory or story from your volunteer career?
JM & MMM: One of our favorite stories at Restoration Rome is the amazing transformation that our mascot dog, Humphrey the Bulldog, brought about in a young teenager we have come to know and love. Prior to meeting Humphrey, the young man would show up for our YMCA afterschool program, sit alone, rarely lift his head or say a word, and certainly never share a smile. That all changed when he met Humphrey. For whatever reason, he and Humphrey hit it off. Picking up on that, Mrs. Steph with the YMCA provided the young man with his very own jar of dog treats. Before we knew it, the young man had taught Humphrey to sit and wait to be fed a treat, much to the teen’s delight. These days, we and Humphrey welcome the teen at the side door after school and are greeted with a great big smile and lots of conversation about the day. We are not sure whose smile is bigger – his, Humphrey’s, or ours. You never know what the Lord will use to bring folks together, but He does so consistently at RR!
Q5: What would you say to people who say they don’t have time to volunteer?
JM & MMM: Helping others doesn’t have to take a tremendous amount of time. Volunteering should be more about quality interactions and a sincere desire to make a positive impact, rather than about the number of hours logged. So, if you are short on time, just find ways to give back during the normal course of your day through a smile, prayer, or encouraging interaction. Any time you give to others will fuel your soul and be as much of a blessing to you, as to those you serve.