I’m not going to lie—my decision to volunteer at Doorways wasn’t completely selfless. Carmina and I had been co-workers and friends for years, but then she left the company, and I wondered how we’d maintain our relationship as our lives took different paths. Then one hot August afternoon we found ourselves looking for relief from the heat at the Arlington County Fair. As we browsed the aisles of the indoor (and air-conditioned) craft fair, we came upon the Doorways table. We both really liked the mission of Doorways and thought we’d each find something we could contribute. Shopping seemed relatively easy, something we could commit to at least once a month and could do “together.” Perfect!
Don’t let anyone tell you that shopping is an easy task. While we review the shopping list each week, we have to calculate how many shopping carts we’ll need based on how many gallons of milk we’ll have to haul, we wonder if this will be the week we’ll beat the record of having more than 20 pounds of bananas to bag and we brace ourselves for the frozen food section. Testing our knowledge of Giant aisles, we try to get everything we need without having to backtrack. Yes, shopping for Doorways has helped us develop valuable skills!
When we return to the Family Home, it’s great to see the families that we’re there to support. We laugh when the kids compete to see who can carry in the most bags at one time. Once we even re-bagged groceries – placing a single can in a plastic bag so a 2 year old could feel accomplished carrying in the groceries. It’s bittersweet to see the same children each month; we love to see the same faces and have them greet us at the door, and it is a little sad when they are no longer there. However, we know that the Family Home is temporary and success means moving on to a more permanent solution.
Over three years later, the one constant for us is that we commit to shopping for Doorways each month. We’re unabashedly proud of our December 2010 Volunteers of the Month award and boast about how we’re the longest running shopping volunteers at the Family Home. And our involvement doesn’t end with shopping. We have each gotten our companies involved by hosting fundraisers and soliciting donations. Doorways continues to give us so much more than we feel we’ve given. We look forward to reaching our fourth year of volunteer service – and maintaining our shopping volunteer record!
—Carmina Carper and Kelly Kaelin, Doorways Volunteers since 2008