At the Center of Hope, we have quite a variety of volunteers. I love working with all of them.... in fact, I think that just might be my favorite part of my job.
There is a girl named Alyssa, whose grandmother lives in one of the apartments above the Center. Whenever Alyssa has early dismissal or a day off school she comes to help us downstairs.
This summer, whenever she's not at day camps, she comes to help out. She helps with EVERYTHING: front desk, bagging groceries, stocking shelves, calling numbers.
OK, so her attention span isn't as long as a regular volunteer shift (2 1/2 hours), so we occasionally find her wandering around, taking a snack break, or reading a book... a couple times I got frustrated because she left her post (number calling or signing people in on the computer - which are both very important) without notice. I explained to her that she needs to let us know so we can find a replacement, before she runs off to do a different job. But all in all, she's a sweetheart, very bright, and a willing helper/learner. I think she's going into 5th grade this fall.
The last couple weeks we've been doing some painting around the Center - to freshen things up a bit. Alyssa helped us finish some trim work, doorframes and doors. Since we were planning to paint the floors soon, I asked the director, on a whim, if we could put handprints on the floor, just for fun. Because Renita is the BEST boss ever, of course she said yes. So Alyssa and I coated our right-hand palms and fingers with white paint and pressed them down, side by side, on the brown floor, right in the middle of the room. We were pretty tickled, anticipating the reactions come Monday morning when the first guests would enter.
Well I had pretty much forgotten about the handprints by the time I came into work the next week. On Tuesday or Wednesday, I noticed the handprints were completely gone, and another volunteer mentioned that they were gone by 10:00 Monday morning. That's how much foot traffic we have in our waiting room!
This morning as I helped put a fresh coat of brown paint on the floors, I remembered our white handprints, and wondered if anyone even noticed them before they were trampled and disappeared. Then I started thinking about little pieces of paint stuck on the bottom of people's shoes, and being walked around all over Kankakee County. And that's kind of the nature of what we do here, by giving food and other temporary forms of physical help to hundreds of people each day: It may not last long, but it's affecting many lives, a little bit at a time.
I smiled to myself, knowing that a middle schooler and I are making our mark on this community. Even if it goes unnoticed, under people's feet... it's spreading all over.