In a community like Tahlequah, there are many ways to volunteer, from filing and answering telephones, to serving on boards of directors and fundraising. Many community members are giving of their time and talents to help nonprofits and neighbors, including Andrea Young.
Young devotes her volunteer talents to Help-In-Crisis, an organization that aids victims of domestic violence and abuse.
“People need to volunteer and give back to their communities,” said Young. “For me, it fulfills a need in the community and also fulfills an inner need in myself as a person.”
Young has always been active in her church, but she was in her 20s before she considered volunteering in the community.
“Wherever I have lived, I have tried to be an active member of the community, whether at the YMCA, church, food pantries, or shelters,” said Young.
Young, a native of Tahlequah, is a nursing student at Connors State College. She is a graduate of Tahlequah High School, and while she moved away for college, she returned later in life. She attends Cornerstone Fellowship and has been a part of the Cornerstone family for more than 20 years, volunteering in many different capacities, mostly with children’s ministries.
“I love that Tahlequah is such a great small town that values community. Tahlequah is a very generous community that supports the needs of its residents,” said Young. “Tahlequah is considered one of the top 100 best small towns for many reasons: the lake, the river, Cherokee Nation and the history of the Cherokee Indians. It is a great place to raise a family.”
For two years, she’s volunteered with HIC. She knew other people who assisted with HIC previously and was aware there was of a need for volunteers. After researching, she realized HIC was created to help women and children in the Tahlequah area through difficult times.
“I liked that they enable people who are involved in violent or domestic abuse relationships to help themselves through training and support services, and need a helping hand,” she said.
HIC uses volunteers for many outreach events throughout the year, as well as day-to-day operations.
“[HIC] also provides crisis intervention and services for people whose resources may be nonexistent or low,” said Young.
Young has worked in the office, and also volunteered in the Encore Resale Shop, which provides slightly used clothing at affordable prices for families in need.
“I have recently completed a 25-hour crisis hotline training where you volunteer for 12-hour shifts to answer the crisis hotline to help anyone in need who calls in,” she said.
She has also pitched in for some of the outreach activities HIC sponsors throughout the year, such as Walk a Mile in her Shoes.
“The reward is knowing that any contribution, small or large, financial or emotional, can make a difference in someone else’s life,” Young said.
Donations to HIC can consist of clothing, diapers, formula, bedding, quilts, pillows. Financial donations are also appreciated, she said.
“Everyone I have come into contact with at HIC, staff and volunteers, reaches out to help individuals. Regardless of the situation, they are there to provide support and encouragement in any way they can,” Young said.
Young said volunteering can be very rewarding.
“It’s very easy to become complacent in our lives and not make the effort to give back to our community,” she said. “But the reality is that there are a lot of people in our town who need a helping hand at some point in their lives. To be a part of something that makes a difference in someone’s life is priceless, so find a need in our community, and don’t hesitate to step out and become part of a solution to the problem.”
In choosing a nonprofit, Young suggests a prospective volunteer find something that resonates with a personal passion, whether that be the animal shelter, domestic violence, food pantry, or the homeless.
“If you are interested in being part of something that tries to make a difference in families’ lives, then come by HIC’s office and talk to the volunteer coordinator, Penny Gifford,” Young said. “There are so many opportunities available for people to contribute, and Penny will do a personal interview to try to find a fit that works well for both you and the organization.”
Tahlequah has many great groups that value volunteers, she said.
“There are so many needs,” said Young. “Make a commitment and run with it.”