Thursday, August 27, 2015

Volunteers - Hector with Big Brothers Big Sisters

Last weekend I was thrilled to attend the annual Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Austin "Ice Ball" in Austin.  With over 750 people in attendance, a good time was enjoyed by all and a lot of money was raised for this worthy cause.   What makes it even more special is that my husband and I were the guests of Kate and Hector Perez (my daughter and son-in-law.)  Hector has a been a "Big" since 2010 and in 2014 was named Big Brother of the Year for all of Texas.  I am so proud to share his story today!

Hector was raised in San Antonio, and like so many, he faced many challenges.  As a teenager, he picked himself up and made a decision to create his own opportunities for a better life, with the support of family and friends.  Eventually, he enlisted in the US Air Force with the hopes of "seeing the world" and instead, being stationed in San Antonio and Wichita Falls, he got to see more of Texas!!  With this background he was able to attend college, graduate school and set out on a career path toward success!   Realizing the importance of having a mentor during his own challenges of growing up, he chose to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas.

In Hector's words:
" I started as a "Big" in December of 2010. I wanted to become a "Big" and become a part of this organization because I had gotten to a point in my life where I was very grateful for where I was and where I have come from and wanted to give back to my community in an impactful way." 

"I get to see my "little" Gabriel grow up in an environment in which I can positively impact outcomes in his life. The most rewarding part is what I get out of the organization and of being a "Big" vs anything I could have done for Gabriel. "
Taking Gabe to his first college football game - Hook 'em Horns!
Teaching Giving Back at
The Central Area  Food Bank
Visiting the LBJ Library and Museum
Hector with Gabe, and brother Tre
playing baseball
First ride on a horse... a true Texan!
Together now for almost five years, Hector and Gabe have shared many special experiences, but my personal favorite is that he asked Gabe to be his ring bearer at their wedding last September.  I got to sit with Gabe before the wedding, to help calm some jitters and I was so impressed.  He is a fine young boy, smart, polite and very inquisitive...and I know Hector has played a large part in that.  He has truly become a member of Gabe's family and frequently includes his brother Tre (currently on the waiting list for a big brother) on their outings.

Since becoming a Big Brother to Gabe, Hector has felt the call to become involved with BBBS in even more ways... he is instrumental in a new program to encourage the involvement of our veterans as well as serving as a member of the Board of Directors.  And the latest role ... next August, Hector and Kate have been asked to be Co-chairs of "Ice Ball 2016" to keep the momentum going!  

When I asked him what would you tell others to encourage others to get involved in this or any other group as a volunteer.  He said:

"Just start, don't wait around and say "I just don't have time". You will make time and figure out a way for it to be in your life. I have been asked by so many people "how much time does it take?" or "I am not sure I will have the time to dedicate" and my answer is simple, the time will figure itself out and you will get so much more out of being a "Big" than you can ever image. 

When I became a "Big", I did not know what to expect and was a bit outside of comfort zone when I started. Getting outside of your comfort zone means you are growing and I have grown so much since I started as a "Big". If I look back 4.5 years now since I first met with Gabriel in December 17th, 2010, I would say the following; Outside of my marriage to my wife, this is the best thing I have ever done by far. If you don't get involved in BBBS, get involved somewhere, you will get way more than you give."

Big Brothers Big Sisters supports relationships that provide consistent, positive, one-to-one interaction between a single-parent child and an adult volunteer who will be an advisory and friend on the journey from childhood to adulthood. To learn more about BBBS and find a chapter in your area visit:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Volunteers - Judy "Just to help him cry"

I haven't had the pleasure of meeting this wonderful woman, but after hearing her story, I had to share it here.  I hope you, like me will feel inspired and blessed.  It's a little long, but so worth the read.  

When I think of Judy, this popular expression comes to mind:  
"Bloom Where You Are Planted." 

Even though she has been confined to a wheelchair due to her MS, that doesn't stop her or even slow her down. Her desire to give back to others in gratitude for all of her blessing goes to her very core.  Soon she is going to be transitioning to a long term care facility to live but plans to continue to volunteer at St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida and is excited to see how God will use her in this new phase of her life and in this new place.
Judy has a willing and loving spirit... that's all God asks for, and He will do the rest!

By Judy Gorman Petrocy

A four-year-old child, whose elderly neighbor had just lost his wife, saw the man crying.  The little one crawled into the old man’s lap and just sat there.  When he finally slid off his lap, his mother asked what he had said to the neighbor.  The little boy responded, “Nothing.  I just helped him cry”.

One day as I was wondering what I could do in gratitude for all my blessings, I saw a notice in the church bulletin that St. Anthony’s hospital Pastoral Care Department was looking for volunteers to visit patients.  I showed it to it to my husband Paul, since he would have to drive me. and asked if he minded if I looked into it. His response was more than I could have asked for.  He thought he might like to do that as well. Our interview went well and we proceeded to take the training classes.  The classes were great and we got to meet the fantastic Pastoral Care team as well as other wonderful staff members. While we were taking the classes we noticed that whenever we entered the hospital there was an atmosphere of caring and compassion that permeated the entire building.  Everyone we met seemed to smile and greet one another.  People treated us like they knew us and were happy to see us.  We saw people offering to help others without even have been asked and we soon felt like we belonged and were part of the family.

Formal classes were over and we shadowed an experienced Pastoral Care Volunteer and were on our own.  I was assigned to the women’s cancer floor, and two other floors, and Paul to Florida Cancer Specialists, where he visits the patients getting chemo.

I don’t remember much about my first day as I was so concerned about saying the right thing, remembering to wash my hands between patients, knowing what the codes meant, where the fire extinguishers were, and if I was up to all this.  What if they asked me a religious question I couldn’t answer, or didn’t want me there at all.  It was all about me.  Fortunately I got over myself quickly and all that soon dissipated. Just taking some deep breaths, and asking God to let me be His Presence to each patient did the trick. It isn’t about Religion. It is about the patient.

 Walking into each room is an experience like walking into a page of someone else’s Book of Life.  I can’t explain what takes place as each scenario unfolds and I become part of it.  My own life is temporarily suspended and God’s Spirit takes over.  Most are very welcoming and appreciative of the visit and the conversation is light.  We respect all Religions, but actually address the Spiritual aspect of healing. Each patient is unique.  Some have no family and no one to talk to, and are delighted to have someone listen to them.  Some do not want to burden their families but need to get things off their chests. I feel their pains, worries anxieties and vulnerability that come with uncertainty and fear, as well as their joy, gratitude and relief when a situation is resolved.

 One little lady in her nineties, so frail the bed almost swallowed her, sweetly asked me if I would like to hear her story. She said she never married and had no living relatives.  I told her of course I would and she began….I was born in 1924 in a little farmhouse….  I knew I would be there awhile.

As I passed a room one day I heard someone cry out weakly; “Help me. Help me.  Help me”. I turned back and went in to find an elderly woman lying in an awkward position with her arm outstretched and her eyes open but unfocused.  She was trembling and appeared to be in distress.  I took her outstretched hand in mine and she clutched it tightly.  She almost immediately stopped trembling and her breathing evened out.  I told her everything would be all right and that I would get her some help.  She did not respond and her eyes never looked in my direction.  I stayed until she eventually released her grip and was very calm and breathing evenly.  I knew she was in God’s hands.  Then I went to report the incident.  

Then there are the visits that are topsy- turvy. Those are the ones where a patient, though in pain, and in serious or incurable condition, greets me with a smile and tells me how grateful they are for all God’s goodness, their families, a simple kind word, or for just having the gift of life for as long as they have. It is so humbling and reassuring.  Those lessons I tuck into that special place in my heart that I save for all my treasures and call on them when my own ego tries to taunt me into self-pity.

At the end of the visit, unless the patient is a non-believer, I ask if they would like a prayer.  I seldom get a refusal. Spontaneous prayer is my choice and I never know exactly what I will say. When words of wisdom come out, I know it isn’t coming from me. The lesson is for me! I thank them for letting me visit. Once I leave the room, that page closes in their book and I leave it behind. 

I am so grateful for the privilege of having God hitch a ride on my wheelchair as I travel the corridors of St. Anthony’s as a Pastoral Care Volunteer.

Another knock, another patient, another story, another Amazing Grace experience.  Maybe the next patient will need me to just help him cry.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Volunteers - Family Promise at TWUMC

Founded in 2001, Family Promise of Montgomery County is a faith-based non-profit organization that supports families who are experiencing homelessness as they search for new jobs, undergo job training, and obtain permanent housing.   It is affiliated with the national organization founded in 1986. 

The Woodlands United Methodist Church is one of many “Host Church’s” who provide program participants and their families a place to sleep, eat and socialize with others in a safe and secure environment while they are in a transitional “homeless” state.  TWUMC will host families at the church for one week each quarter.   Other community churches do the same so that the needs are met year round.   The families can utilize this program for up to 90 days, while they get back on their feet and obtain their own housing.

Mike Smith is the coordinator for TWUMC Family Promise week of hosting.  He organizes over 75 volunteers who will cover such tasks as setting up, serving meals, provide transportation to kids for school, spending the night as “hosts” and talking with, encouraging, and spending time with the participants, and even doing the linens laundry at the end of the week. 

 In Mike’s words:

I started with Family Promise about 8 1/2 years ago.  A group of men from Quest (church men’s group) were interested in finding local missions work that our church could support or create. The Loft was just opening at the time so it provided new spaces that could be used for Family Promise.  The church decided to join and I agreed to coordinate the ministry for our church.  We recruited volunteers and hosted our first week on the 4th of July weekend in 2007.

In addition to following Christ’s direction to serve others, we hope that our witness will strengthen the faith of the families or bring them to Christ.  

The most rewarding thing to me is seeing families gain confidence, become hopeful, mature, and become independent.  One of the first moms we hosted was an eighth grade dropout who had been into drugs in her youth.  The ministry helped her get secretarial training and she got a good job.  She worked hard and was dedicated to her children.  After she graduated she was invited to be on the Board of Directors of Family Promise and served for a couple of years.  Another recent graduate and her two children entered the program with no car, no job, and only the clothes on their backs.  She worked two jobs while at the church and the family is now self-supporting in a three bedroom apartment with furniture and a car from Family Promise.

This ministry has made me more aware of and appreciative of my blessings.  

I so admire Mike and his willingness to give his time and talents to coordinate such an important ministry.  But, it couldn’t happen without those that are willing to give their time as volunteers during the host week… whether it be a few hours of their time to serve a meal or to volunteer to help by driving the kids to school. 

Theresa Duff was an “overnight host” during a recent Family Promise week.  In her words:

When I started out with Family Promise no one (women) in particular ever wanted to spend the night. I always thought gosh how hard is that? It still seems to be one of the harder positions to fill and to me it's one of the easiest ways to serve! You get to meet really neat folks and share a little time with them and then night, night. It's my chance to give and help out. The kids can be really fun! On one of the holidays I stayed up with some of the teens playing Old Maid till midnight and we laughed and laughed.

Now, doesn’t that sound like fun??

For more information about Family Promise in Montgomery County visit their website at: or check your local area.

For more information about this and all the other ways to get involved through serving with The Woodlands UMC, visit:

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Volunteers - The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

"The Apple doesn’t’ fall far from the tree" is an expression heard often in our family.  Whether it’s genetic or a learned behavior I’m amazed at the similarities.  I once followed my cousin and my dad walking in a hallway in exactly the same manner and laughed out loud.  My daughter, Sarah’s handwriting is sometimes hard for even me to tell from my own. Getting involved, organizing things, and giving back to our community have always been part of my family DNA... or was it learned? The behavior I witnessed just became a part of who I am.

I grew up with parents who were always involved in our community beyond family and work responsibilities … The YWCA Board of Directors, Boy and Girl Scouts, Kiwanis and Sinawik (Kiwanis spelled backwards for the women, back in the day when they were separate groups!!) and local politics... I could go on and on… it’s no wonder that I have "giving back" instilled in my deepest parts.   Even today, at 89 and 91, my parents volunteer at their church to help with the Food Pantry and folding the weekly bulletins.

Consequently, my daughters grew up watching me as a Girl Scout leader, painting sets and scenery for community theater, as a Habitat volunteer... it’s just what we do!  

Last year, Sarah spent a month in Sri Lanka with International Volunteer Headquarters. She spent three weeks teaching English to young "monks in training" and volunteering in a local orphanage.

Katie has made “giving back” a second career with her involvement in the Austin Community… whether it be a camp for teenage girls with Explore Austin,  mentoring programs for Young Women in Austin (YWA) or committee work and event planning supporting non-profits and the Arts, you will usually find her front and center.

Volunteering in your community is a win-win-win!  
It serves others...
 makes you feel good...
 but you also set an example for those around you, both friends and family.
It demonstrates that you "walk the walk" not just "talk the talk!"

With your involvement, just imagine who you will inspire to follow your lead and do the same!