SANDY BUILDS CONNECTIONS AND COMMUNITY AS HOME AGAIN VOLUNTEER
Her advice? Start serving by doing something small
Bringing people together in the community for a greater good is at the very heart of why Sandy Neville does what she does. Sandy started as a volunteer at Home Again in 2010. It was Easter, and she played with the kids on the playground and made them feel at home and happy. “I brought balloons, drew happy faces on them and they asked for balloons each time I came for the next six months,” Sandy said with a laugh.
Over the years, Sandy has helped many children feel at home at the family shelter, and also helped them feel like they belong outside of the shelter too. “I noticed the kids like to talk about school, but were behind in some areas,” Sandy said. “I helped a boy learn math by using the logic from putting a puzzle together.” She continued to bring puzzles from home and challenged him. “The light bulb went on and one day he said, ‘I get it now!’” Seeing the confidence grow among the kids gave Sandy fuel to get more involved at the Mission.
Sandy started working in the pantry, organizing and collecting donations. As she went through the pantry she realized the need for fresh foods. “I have a heart for kids,” she said. “When they eat better, they think better.” She knew she needed help from others, so she reached out to those around her. “Weekly I gather fresh food donations from groups within the community, churches, and restaurants like Panera Bread.”
Getting her community involved is just one way she has brought others together. Sandy also has gotten her family to participate too. “It is very gratifying seeing my family here serving,” she said. “My granddaughter and her now husband started out serving together. He would play with the kids and she would help with crafts—they really enjoyed doing that together.” It is now a family affair—Sandy’s son volunteered with her during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Through attending Bible Studies and learning about spiritual gifts, Sandy has made the connection between compassion and serving. “There is a spiritual element of serving,” she said. Serving others has become more than just something Sandy does on a weekly basis. “This is now part of my lifestyle. It is why we are here—to serve each other.”
“There is a spiritual element of serving. This is now part of my lifestyle. It is why we are here — to serve each other.”
Sandy understands it can be intimidating at first, but she encourages anyone to just start out small. “Many people may not know they have a talent, but once they serve, they realize they enjoy it and find it gratifying.”
Reaching out and asking for donations has given Sandy the opportunity to tell others about the Mission and get them involved.
“My church has allowed me to make announcements asking for volunteers and I tell them they can start by doing anything—cutting and peeling vegetables is serving. I have seen many people start off in the kitchen and then move onto other areas of service at the Mission.”
One of Sandy’s passions is seeing the families change from when they first arrive to when they have settled in. “I love seeing families get comfortable here,” she said. “Their kids at first won’t make eye contact or listen, but as time goes by, they know we are safe and they start to sit still, and learn to be respectful and quiet while we pray.”
Sandy’s gifting to pull others in not only has made an impact on increasing fresh food donations within our community, but has also made an impact on creating a community within Home Again.