Friday, May 13, 2011

Volunteering: Making a Difference, Then and Now

Volunteers have always played an important role at both of GAAH's facilities. When I hear stories about the incredible commitment of so many Grand Rapid's volunteers throughout the years, I am always impressed and humbled. People have come from all different parts of Grand Rapids to donate time, money, resources and open arms for those in need, and the Grandville Avenue neighborhood is forever changed as a result.

One group of volunteers that has been with us from the start is the group known as the Dominican Sisters. Fifteen years ago in 1996, our very first librarian was a volunteer from the Grand Rapids Dominicans, Sister Joan Pichette. Working with Mary Angelo, the Executive Director of the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association, the Dominican Sisters helped turn the dream of a library into a reality.

Sister Jeanne Marie Jones was the next volunteer librarian who made a huge impact on the community. Through countless volunteer hours and a solid commitment to improve lives in the neighborhood through reading and access to important library resources, she proved that volunteering really does make a difference, not just for one person, but for entire communities. Below is an old letter that was written to the community by Sister Jeanne Marie Jones, back when the Cook Library Center was just getting off of it's feet.

The Dominican Sisters did not just donate their energy once and move on to other parts of Grand Rapids - they are still with us today, actively supporting our programs at the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center, donating supplies, mentoring youth, and continually proving that they are still invested in our community. Sister Katheryn Sleziak is always thinking of different ways to help us make a difference. Making a donation of much-needed paper and setting aside two entire weeks for volunteers to help out at the Cook Library Center with their Called to Serve program are just a couple of the things that have impacted us this month. Below is a picture of some young Dominican Sister volunteers who are a part of the Called to Serve program. They are currently in their second week of tutoring students, doing craft projects, and helping out in any way they can.

Calvin College volunteers also have a history of dedication to this community and our organization. Many years ago, Matt Flemming became one of the first Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities volunteers, spending countless hours tutoring students as the library began making itself known as a place for after-school resources.

Today, Calvin College volunteers come to both of our facilities on a regular basis to help with homework, reading, art classes, and events. The Boer Bennink dorm has"adopted" the Grandville Avenue neighborhood and sends volunteers to our organization every year, continuing their commitment even after students graduate and move away.

The Dominican Sisters and Calvin College have proven that with great community partners who truly invest in people and communities, Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities will continue to thrive and take every opportunity to improve lives in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood. We can never say thank you enough to any and all of those who have helped us make a difference.

Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center.

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