People looking for a few inexpensive clothes to add to their wardrobe, unique household items or toys for visiting grandchildren often check out thrift stores, such as those operated by WINGS (Women In Need Growing Stronger). It’s a fun and economical way to shop, and best of all, the profits from these stores-as the name suggests-deliver much needed assistance for families in crisis. Its mission: to break the cycle of domestic violence.
Because WINGS operates on so many levels, it needs helping hands in these areas as well: Thrift stores (for funding), safe houses (to provide shelter for victims) and the crisis hotline (to offer the first means of comfort and guidance).
Thrift Shop Volunteer
Helen Jerusis, a Senior Corps-RSVP member for 23 years has been volunteering at a WINGS store for the past ten years and at 93, she’s still going strong.
When she arrives at the store, she starts by making sure that items in the housewares section are clean and in good working order before pricing them.
What keeps her coming back each week? “The people … are always smiling,” she says. “Charlie is easy to work with and a terrific manager.” And she knows the staff appreciates her efforts. She’s proud of the store, as well. The prices are competitive, donations carefully examined and it’s clean and organized. For those interested in volunteering at a WINGS thrift shop, there are stores in Arlington Heights, Schaumburg and Niles.
Safe House Volunteer
The main goal of a WINGS safe house operation is to help women in crisis regain a sense of control and empowerment, assess their strengths to focus on career guidance and enable them to eventually live on their own. It offers shelter, legal advice, meals, children’s activities and so much more. The facilities, on average, house about twenty women and twenty-five children. That’s where Senior Corps-RSVP member, Beth Adamoli comes in. For the past five years, Beth has been working one day a week during the lunch hour, making salads, setting the table, and even hard-boiling eggs. Yet in the short time she’s there, she is making a difference.
She brings her knitting and estimates that she has taught more than 100 women how to knit. If they’re reluctant to learn, she’ll start with asking them about their favorite color. She has many samples of yarn to choose from. “I also tell them it helps with stress,” she says. “I did it when my husband had cancer. It’s similar to yoga.”
Even during the winter, Beth will encourage the women to step outside for a short time. A change of scenery, no matter how slight, can help combat depression.
She chose to volunteer at WINGS because she was interested in helping victims of domestic violence. “I needed to figure out my retirement,” she explained. “I don’t like being insular and it helps to be with the less fortunate.”
According to Beth, the women who arrive at the safe house come from diverse backgrounds. Some had management skills; others were foreign nationals, victims of human trafficking, injuries, etc. She talks to them, asks how they’re doing, and though it may take some time, they eventually warm up.
There is a great need for lunch servers. Beth may be the only one at this point. She emphasizes that it doesn’t take a huge commitment, and yet she is touched by the stories she hears. Those who wish to help at a safe house must take a 40-hour training class to receive a certificate and learn the cycle, psychology and legal options for domestic violence victims.
Crisis Hotline Volunteer
Sandie Mix, Senior Corps-RSVP member, takes calls at the WINGS crisis hotline. She is often the first person a woman talks to when she contacts WINGS. Sandie admits that her duties are sometimes challenging. “Doing an intake for a potential client who is confused and scared can be intense,” she says. “The questioning is personal and explicit.” But Sandie finds that with all the WINGS programs available to draw on, eventually women feel more at ease and ready to begin a new and safer life.
Sandie began volunteering about six years ago when she learned how WINGS reached out to domestic violence victims and decided to help out in some capacity. After a 40-hour training course along with shadowing a crisis hotline worker, she was ready to begin handling callers on her own. In addition to working the call line, she also assists staff members and WINGS residents.
“It is a satisfying experience to know that I am a very small part of this great organization,” Sandie said.
This past fiscal year, WINGS served 1,045 individuals including 589 women and 425 children. Those who assist WINGS in any capacity should know they will make a difference in many women’s lives down the line.
To volunteer with WINGS and help to combat domestic violence follow this link.
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