Saturday, May 25, 2019

Volunteer Makes a Difference in His Community

Eddie and Russell
When Russell Prophet is not volunteering his time at Trailside Terrace, a Mercy Housing property where he lives, he can be found working on a bike to donate to a child or giving out popsicles to kids.

Prophet, who is involved in helping youth at the property, facilitates the Outdoor Club on Mondays and helps with tutoring and supervision of kids during various after school activities. It is not uncommon for kids to knock on his door to ask him for a snack or for help with something.

I think it means a lot to the kids that he is here, Shirin Wells, a mother and resident at Trailside Terrace who also helps out when she can, said. The kids just love him. If he was not here they would be lost without him.

Prophet started volunteering three years ago when approached by Resident Services Coordinator Eddie Zacapa, who has recently published a book called Essentials for Cultivating Passionate Volunteers and Leaders: Guidelines for Organizationsthat Value Connection. In the book Zacapa captures stories like Prophets and gives tips to leaders on how to build quality relationships with volunteers to help them reach their full potential. Prophet was really excited about a ping pong table that was donated to the community room and that is when the two first connected.

Building Connections
After a few ping pong games and a couple walks during our weekly Walking Club on Friday mornings, I decided to ask him if he wanted to volunteer with the kids, recalled Zacapa. He kind of shrugged his shoulders and said he would think about it. After he started volunteering he didnt stop and has been doing it since. He really means a lot to this community.

Prophet is one of three volunteers at Trailside Terrace and one of 20 active volunteers who are part of the Community Care Team that reaches out to both Trailside Terrace and White Rock Village. The team of volunteers wear t-shirts that read on the back, Demonstrating our care by doing our neighbor good.

Trailside Terrace is a property of Mercy Housing in Shingle Springs which provides affordable housing to create stable and healthy communities by developing, financing and operating affordable, program-enriched housing for families, seniors and people with special needs who lack the economic resources to access quality, safe housing opportunities.

Zacapa, whose intention in writing his book was to help organizations build quality relationships with volunteers that help them serve out of their passion and giftedness, says, Any time you meet someone, you can share your need and ask them if they might be willing to help. When you do, you are offering individuals a chance to contribute to making a difference.

Prophet and 20 other volunteers have been making a difference at both properties. Zacapa, who holds a community care team meeting once a month with his volunteers, believes it is important to include volunteers in the decision-making and giving them a voice.

Prophet, who has a chapter named after him in Zacapas book, came up with the idea to get a bike for all the residents at Trailside Terrace and worked on various bikes getting them ready. He also donated some to White Rock Village, another property of Mercy Housing.

People want to help and make a difference and many times it is simply about finding the right role for them to thrive, says Zacapa. It is about caring enough to get to know the volunteer and exploring with them what they like to do and their strengths.

Passionate Volunteers
Iva Bartley volunteers with the youth at White Rock Village and does an arts and crafts class in the summer and said that the reason she helps is because she wants to share her passion for art with the kids.

Terry Wagner, who has volunteered on the White Rock Village Knitting Team that has donated over 3,000 caps to newborns and cancer patients to local hospitals, says, The reason I help is really a selfish reason. It feels good to volunteer and help others. I like to share something that makes me feel good with others so that they can experience it as well. 

These individuals all have one thing in common - they shared the passion they had in their heart with others. Zacapa says that when this happens it is magical to watch what happens. I enjoy getting a front row seat to seeing these volunteers do wonderful things to enrich the lives of those around them, he says. 

Zacapas book demonstrates how to inspire and motivate volunteers and staff, reduce turnover and cultivate passion in the workplace. Zacapa, who has worked with volunteers for over 20 years with various non-profits and is also a certified trainer with The Center for Nonviolent Communication, draws on his experience and shares many inspiring stories of volunteers making a difference in his book.

Yoko Kono, Outreach Coordinator for Hands 4 Hope and an organization that has partnered with White Rock Village states, From building leadership skills to forming relationships and a sense of belonging, Eddie shares his expertise and knowledge for all agencies and organizations who work with volunteers. A must read for everyone involved in community engagement services!

Zacapas book is available at the Face in a Book Bookstore in El Dorado Hills and is available for sale at most online retailers.                                                         

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