Have you ever met an accountant-turned-nanny studying to become a teacher who spends her “free time” volunteering? We have! And we are thankful to have met her. Jeanette is a full time student at Cardinal Stritch studying to earn a dual certificate in regular and special education. She spent most of her life working as an accountant but felt it was not the right fit for her.
After an inspiring opportunity to nanny for a family with five children, Jeanette realized she belonged in education. Not just education in the strictest sense, Jeanette also wanted to continue her education in the community.
“As a teacher, I need to know the community I’m working in. For years, I wanted to volunteer but could not because of my hectic work schedule. Working 2-3 jobs, it was hard to find time.”
But now, she has. For the past three months, Jeanette has been volunteering at the Gathering’s breakfast program 3-4 times a week. You can see her regularly in the serving line. She’s the one with a big “J” hand-sewn onto her specialized Gathering apron.
“I think names are important. That’s why I sewed the “J” on my apron. I wanted people to know that they can call me J and I want to know their names, too.”
Like many dedicated Gathering volunteers, Jeanette believes that respect and dignity are of the utmost importance.
“Little compliments and smiles go a long way.”
Her favorite part of the meal is sitting down and visiting with guests and volunteers once the rush is over, swapping stories and socializing. She has even been able to help guests out in unique ways, including tutoring, providing community resources, donating clothes to St. James’ Red Door Clothing and even hemming a pair of pants that didn’t quite fit one of the guests.
Jeanette does not volunteer just to give back; she also gains a lot from her experience at the breakfast program.
“Sometimes you can really feel alone, but when I go to the Gathering, I feel like a part of something. It’s not about status or socioeconomic means; it’s just about everyone being there. No one’s background really matters. It’s bigger than me. It’s about making the community go in a positive direction.”
It’s the little things that Jeanette and all the Gathering’s guests and volunteers do to move our community in a positive direction. Whether its swapping stories, hemming pants or just being present, Jeanette and so many others help the Gathering create a comforting and dignified community.