With her youngest daughter off to university and a few years after retirement, Maria Hicks was looking for a new way to spend her time.
“I needed a mission. I needed to do something that would give me a feeling of purpose and fulfillment,” Maria says. “I’m not gifted to be a leader, and I don’t have a lot of money that I can share. This is what I can do. It’s the feeling of mothering, of nurturing, helping someone who needs it.”
Maria signed up to work with Welcome Home, a program that matches a newly-housed person with two volunteers. While getting vulnerably housed and homeless people off the street and into stable accommodation is a crucial part of new beginnings, Catholic Social Services has realized that a social connection is important, too.
Creating new healthy relationships helps to build clients’ self-confidence, develop trusting relationships and reduce feelings of isolation for the newly housed.
Maria and her volunteer partner, Florence, meet with their friend Gloria about once a week.
“We’ve developed a nice relationship. Our weekly date helps to keep her going, and keeps her out of a dark place,” says Maria. “A family member recently passed away, so we spent the day together, and attended the funeral. She’s been dealing with a medical issue, too, so she’s been anxious. It’s good to have someone to share that anxiety with, to have someone there for her.”
Maria is glad to have volunteering at this new stage in her life. When she was a mother to three young girls, she felt it was important to volunteer to set an example of being a productive member of their community.
“Now, it’s an opportunity to learn more about myself, to get out of my comfort zone. Gloria has taught me so much. I’ve learned so much about our world. I’ve gained insight and perspective. I’m more empathetic and understanding of people who are different than me. And I feel like I’m making a contribution, too,” Maria says. “If everyone shared one little thing, this world would be a better place. Everyone has something to offer, it’s in your nature. All you need is to open your heart and mind.”
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