My name is Sandy Laver and I have had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer at the Torres Shelter for a little over three years. I typically volunteer on Friday evenings, and have had the pleasure of working with some exceptional staff members – who are all worth their weight in gold I might add! They provide a very necessary service to the Chico community, and do so with the utmost degree of compassion, caring, dedication and respect to each and every guest they assist. The guests are obviously at a very low point in their life, but they are taking a very important step to try to get things turned around for the better. I am hopeful that this environment will encourage and support the life changes necessary to assist them in getting back on their feet again.
I had some free time when my youngest son left the area for college, so I decided that I would spend some of that time volunteering at one of the local homeless shelters. Through college, and over the years, I had often heard the phrase that most people are really only one or two paychecks away from homelessness – I believe there is a whole lot of truth to that statement. I was not so sure that I could handle working in a shelter. My biggest fear was that I would say the wrong thing and cause someone additional pain or sadness, since I did not have a background in social work or social services. But I have found that by just being myself, and treating others the way I would like to be treated, that my fears and worries were unwarranted. I smile and laugh often, which most of the guests find refreshing and uplifting.
I typically assist the guests when they check-in for the evening. This may include pulling a small box that is assigned to them where they can store their personal items, distribute mail and messages, providing shower items, bedding, assist with laundry (there’s a whole lot of laundry I might add!), providing personal hygiene items, and the typical “other duties as assigned”. It’s also a time where I get to provide one of my favorite and never ending services – I GET TO TALK TO EVERYONE! I really enjoy interacting and conversing with all the guests. I have heard many great stories, the best jokes, exciting life changing news, along with some very personal heartbreaking news and stories. Everyone needs someone to listen to them and make them feel comfortable and safe. It’s certainly not my place to judge – just listen and offer support if needed. I feel honored that many of the guests feel so comfortable talking to me, and I do appreciate each and every one of them and all the stories, events and just small talk that is shared.
I would not feel right if I did not mention that our community is amazing! From the generous donors to the fantastic people who make and serve dinner to the guests. But there is also a group from the young and upcoming professional people that deserve some kudos as well. I have met and worked with many fine students from CSU Chico. I’m not sure if I was just the luckiest person in the world or what, but each and every one of them were exceptional people who assisted the guests in a sincere and respectful manner – they were all extremely hard workers, and I feel blessed to have been partnered with such great student volunteers and all around amazing young people – their parents, teachers and the community should all be very proud!
I would also like to take this opportunity to offer a very sincere heartfelt thank you to all the generous donors and volunteers! It really would not be possible without you. You are making a very significant contribution in providing assistance and services to those who are going through a very difficult time. I honestly cannot tell you how much the guests appreciate everything. And it truly is the simple things, such as a new pair of socks, deodorant, earplugs, shower shoes (aka flip flops) – so, THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
I am not sure if I have made a positive difference in anyone’s life, but I know some have made a very positive difference in mine. It is my continued prayer that all the guests receive the care and guidance they need to continue safely on their life’s journey. ~ Sandy