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The Least I Can Do

Why I Volunteer: Debbie Moss

In addition to serving as a volunteer and making annual gifts, Debbie has stepped up to participate in the Campaign for Brighter Futures. Her campaign gift includes a multi-year pledge of outright support and a bequest to Doorways in her will. In recognition of Debbie’s generosity, a bedroom in Doorways’ Domestic Violence Safehouse shall be named “Simon’s Sanctuary” in honor of Debbie’s father, Simon Moss, and his generous, but humble soul.

I’ve been lucky in my life — very lucky. Two days after I received my Journalism degree I moved to the DC area without a job. Of course, someone would hire me. Well, I did get a job in a couple weeks but it wasn’t exactly the Washington Post. I worked as an assistant receptionist at a growing association. Little did I know the third largest employer base in the DC area (after the government and attorneys) were trade associations and professional societies. I was a career woman who didn’t have a plan but took every opportunity that came my way — worked hard and moved up the ladder.

Within 10 years, I was a Vice President and had two long runs at large, well established trade associations in senior management positions. I realized I was fortunate to be well compensated doing a job I loved. I never even thought about retiring.

I started to take charitable giving seriously and found a fantastic resource with Charity Navigator. I was making larger and larger contributions each year and was supporting several shelters in DC since I worked there — but I had lived in Northern Virginia since arriving here. Charity Navigator allows you to compare sectors in a particular region so I made an effort to find an organization in Northern Virginia and Doorways popped up as a four-star rating — the highest possible. I did more research and decided this was an organization I wanted to support financially, which I did for several years. (One of the nicest things about giving to Doorways is they don’t send a “Thank You” letter with another pledge form, instead you receive a personal call.) Then, the unthinkable happened — I lost my job in the midst of political infighting. I was 60, not able to fully retire and not ready to be idle. Since I would likely have to reduce my financial support, at least temporarily, I hoped I could support Doorways with volunteer work.

I attended an orientation and signed up for volunteer training. What a revelation it all was. Gaining a broader understanding of domestic violence and the fallout that naturally occurs. Understanding the subconscious biases and cultural differences we might have with those who don’t look or talk like us. And most important of all, appreciating the myriad of reasons why they stay. I was eager to get started since I believed this would require me to develop some of my lesser sharpened characteristics like empathy and nurturing. And indeed it has. I am excited about every shift and I never fail to learn something every time I am there — even if it is seemingly insignificant like where the batteries are stored.

As I began to interact with the clients more and after my first couple of intakes, I felt so at home sitting behind the desk at the Safehouse, confident I can handle anything that comes my way — knowing the great staff is only a phone call away.

Simon Moss
Simon Moss

And then I had a second revelation — remembering something my father would say many, many years ago when we would encounter a homeless person in Wisconsin — where the winters likely sent most homeless further south. He would offer a dollar or two and say to me, “it’s the least I can do.”

Volunteering, for me, is the least I can do.