Below is Barrington Area Volunteer Connection’s fourteenth installment of their profile program, highlighting nonprofits using BAVC for their volunteering needs. Keep reading for the profile of Let IT Be Us.
Interview with Susan McConnell | Founder & Executive Director – Let It Be Us
What do you feel is the best thing about your organization?
The best thing about our work is that we provide parenting opportunities for families who have room in their homes and in their hearts and, in turn, family opportunities for children in foster care. The Barrington Community is a strong family-centered community with excellent schools, medical care providers, and mental health care providers and all of those will benefit our most vulnerable children, the children in foster care.
We also provide volunteers an open runway to be creative in helping our mission. If someone, or a group of people, would like to arrange a fundraiser for us we are open to that, of course. For example, we have our 3rd annual event on the evening of July 9th called ‘Be Mine’ at Shakou in Barrington that several supporters have helped us put together and is open to anyone in the community.
Are there any new programs or new initiatives you will be implementing for 2021?
Yes, we have a new program called “Springboard to Adulthood” where we will be working directly with teens in foster care in what will be our first time at case management or quasi-case management. We will be working with teens who are referred to our program by caseworkers or court-appointed special advocates (CASA), find them a placement in a licensed foster home, and then support them through goals within education and employment. Ultimately we want to provide children with a family and a future and our program will prevent them from aging out of the system alone.
How do you utilize volunteers in your organization?
We are in need of volunteers who are self-starters. For example, right now we need 4 volunteers to work together as a team to stock ‘Our Closet’ in the Waukegan DCFS office. ‘Our Closet’ stocks essential items for children coming into foster care – a new set of clothes or pajamas, diapers, formula, pacifiers, non-perishable snacks, I-phone chargers. The volunteers need to evaluate and monitor ‘Our Closet’ and either have things donated or use our donated funds to supply what is effectively a small workspace.
This can be very eye-opening for volunteers and very satisfying. This position also requires a federal background check and the utmost of confidentiality. This position requires only a few hours per week.
On the other end of the spectrum, we are in need of families to open their homes and their hearts to children in foster care. We need families who can be available for short periods of time, weekends for example, and longer periods of time. This position is a quasi-volunteer role as there is a stipend involved. This position is accompanied by a lot of training and a stipend.
What tips do you have for new or existing volunteers?
For Let It Be Us, self-starters are preferred as we are small and do not have the staff to manage volunteers closely. Volunteers are given a lot of autonomy and free-range to monitor the needs and meet the needs of the children we serve.
What advice would you give to other nonprofits that need to make use of volunteers?
Use this platform, of course! Barrington is a community of ambitious people who want to make a difference in the world and we have tapped into some experts that have helped us significantly.
Recognition of volunteers is important and that is one of their rewards. We find that our volunteer of the year award is a great way to recognize volunteers. And we use social media to thank our volunteers.
Can you share your favorite volunteer moment or story?
We have had some people with us since inception – 7 years ago, which is when we began our work – whose focus is older kids in foster care and that experience has culminated into this new program – Springboard to Adulthood – which has attracted a lot of funding which is important to this program’s sustainability.
My favorite volunteer story involves Wendy who has been a mentor to a young person named James. Wendy has been with James through different milestones – high school graduation, moving out of a group home, securing his own apartment, getting two part-time jobs – and she has been the only constant adult in his life. This has been rewarding for Wendy who is an experienced mother of a pack of kids who have grown and are now free-range young adults. Wendy and James have formed a bond that will last a lifetime, I’m sure. James has thrived because of Wendy’s consistency and tenacity at helping James to become a self-sustaining and forward-thinking young man.
Interesting in becoming a part of Barrington Area Volunteer Connection? Join us today at volunteer.thebavc.org!