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Women's Shelter Volunteer

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Volunteering in a women's shelter is a much-appreciated service, not only by the staff members but also by the women and children who participate in the programs offered.

Anywhere from a few hours each week to a one-time participation will give the volunteer a sense of having made a difference. Depending on time availability, skills and desire, most shelters welcome whatever can be offered and will match volunteers to their needs.

Shelters offer a safe haven, counseling, education and support. Skills and abilities of volunteers are matched to ongoing needs of the shelter. They include office work, helping with fund-raisers or helping with direct client contact. It's a team effort.

Shelters are open 24 hours a day. And there are never enough volunteers to meet the demand. Most volunteers are women over 18. But many shelters welcome younger volunteers from junior high and high schools. Every shelter has its own needs, rules and procedures.

Roberta Bloom is the volunteer coordinator at a women's counseling center. "We offer a parenting and outreach program to mothers aged 16 to 24 with young children. Our volunteers are paired together and spend time assisting with child care, crafts and tutoring while the mothers attend parenting courses, continue their education, or participate in court-ordered programs," she says.

"Although most of our mothers are not victims of domestic violence, some are. Many of our volunteers are college students."

Volunteering offers an excellent opportunity to learn about the problems faced by these young women. You can learn about the treatment the women and their children receive and find out what education and counseling options are available to them.

"Having a volunteer who practices confidentiality, who is mature and understanding, empathetic, responsible and committed to the feminist philosophy and our mission and values is very important," says Meredith Hazen. She is the resource development manager at a shelter.

"I found volunteering very rewarding," says Clara Able. She is a volunteer with a Salvation Army women's shelter. "I was especially touched by the children. They were older than their years, but they were still children. Reading stories to them filled a void for me and I know they looked forward to my visits."

Amy Aiello is the volunteer coordinator with a battered women's shelter in Ohio. She says she became involved while working in university. A few of her friends asked her to join them at a volunteering event.

"It was an unexpected calling. I came back regularly and tutored some of the mothers who were working on their high school equivalency degrees. I was glad to have been able to make a difference in their lives," she says. She's been involved ever since.

"As a high school junior and senior, I was active in community service and fund-raising events," says Jennifer Stone. She is now in the U.S. Navy.

"I worked in both homeless shelters serving meals and in women's shelters helping with office work, usually data entry, answering telephones and filing. I learned a lot about the real world and how difficult it can be. It taught me to have more compassion and understanding for those less fortunate than myself."

Michele Hansen is the executive director of a shelter that offers counseling services. She says a training course may be required. For people who don't take the course, they offer non-client contact volunteer opportunities. You could assist with fund-raising events and other administrative functions. "We also encourage individuals with specific skills to talk to us about how we can utilize their skills to assist us."

How to Get Involved

Churches and religious organizations have programs that help women and families in need. Policies, programs and training vary with each shelter. Many welcome young volunteers who can play board games, watch TV, make crafts and assist with child care.

"Many of our volunteers are age 18 and up. And most are middle-aged women," says Aiello. "However, local high school students come in and read to the children occasionally. During the holidays, they sort donations of food and clothing at the shelter. They make contact with the shelter either through a club or individually, seeking out information how to volunteer."

Ellen Paul is the volunteer coordinator with the Salvation Army domestic violence program in Cocoa, Florida. She says many of her volunteers are college students in "service learning" programs. Many are work as interns at women's shelters. They spend 200 to 250 hours each semester at the shelters.

"We look for volunteers to staff the 24-hour hotline, help reduce the load on our staff and handle tasks around the shelter. We are always short of volunteers."

Shelter locations are not openly publicized. They maintain a low profile to protect the privacy of individuals who seek safety there. Information about local shelters can be found through local social service centers, religious organizations, the Salvation Army, the United Way or the court system.


Domestic Violence Links
Lots of information here

Family Violence Prevention Fund
National source for women's shelters and emergency assistance

Calvary Women's Shelter
Provides housing and support services to homeless women

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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.