Volunteer Spotlight: Linda Lynch

Linda Lynch
Linda Lynch, Alexander Volunteer

When you show up for work each day with a smile on your face and a true passion for what you do, you’re bound to be popular with your coworkers. But when you show up with that smile and passion AND you’re working for free? Now that is something really special.

Nearly every week, Linda Lynch joins the staff at the Alexander Children’s Foundation to help with data entry, event preparation and more. Never seen without a huge smile and her signature sunny disposition, she is considered an integral part of the team. Linda also serves as a member of the Foundation Board of Directors.

“A couple of years ago, I was looking to give back at a non-profit where I could use my organizational and analytical skills to help others. I wanted to interact with nice people and work flexible hours. A friend that worked at the Foundation told me that I could find all that at Alexander.” Linda quickly signed up for one of Alexander’s short, hour-long public tours which take place twice a month on Tuesdays and Thursdays. After gaining a better understanding of how trauma impacts the brain and taking a stab at drum therapy, she was hooked.

When asked about why she dedicates so much time to Alexander, Linda shared, “I have been so impressed with the people that work at Alexander and what they are able to do for the children and families they serve. It is rewarding knowing that I am helping to support the staff, so that they are able to devote more time to these children in need.”

Support and Clerical volunteers like Linda make a huge difference in the day-to-day operations of Alexander Youth Network. We have volunteers who help with data entry, mailings, sorting in-kind donations and more. For those who would prefer to volunteer directly with a child, we offer a buddy program in which the adult volunteer and their matched child get together for just one hour a week.  

For more information on how to get involved, contact Ashley Nieves at anieves@alexanderyouthnetwork.org or visit our website.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Nancy Bunt

One person can change a life forever. That’s what Nancy Bunt does with children at Alexander through Reiki, meditation, guided imagery, and relaxation techniques. It all started with ‘Dan the Artist’, a young man who visited Nancy’s second grade classroom just once to lead the class in a guided relaxation exercise. That one moment solidified meditation practice in her life forever. While Nancy does not know Dan’s full name, she made a promise to herself to pay his gift forward.

Nancy Bunt, Alexander Volunteer

Nancy discovered Alexander Youth Network through one of her students who was interning at Alexander while she worked on her master’s degree in social work. When asked what inspired her to commit so much time and effort, Nancy responds that “after learning about the integrative approach Alexander takes in supporting the healing of children recovering from the effects of trauma I knew it was a place I would enjoy sharing my skills.”

When she first began volunteering weekly at Alexander she thought she would help out for maybe six months. “That was almost six years ago”, Nancy says with a spirited laugh. “I never imagined just how much joy, inspiration, healing and growth was going to come out of this experience for me personally. I’ve been able to witness the positive impact it has, and I believe it’s a valuable experience for the children, the staff, and myself.”

One of Nancy’s favorite experiences involved a diminutive six year-old boy name Marvin*. Marvin would wrap himself up tightly from head to toe in a blanket on the floor during guided mediation. He would not move a muscle the entire time she was there, declaring that he didn’t want anyone to touch him. This went on for six weeks. On the seventh week, Nancy saw him in the hallway as she was walking to the class. “When he saw me coming his eyes got huge, his face lit up, and he exclaimed to his teacher, ‘I can’t sit here, I have Reiki today!’ She knew in that moment that her small gift was a huge one for Marvin.

When Nancy is not working at A Reiki Life Academy and volunteering, she often spends time in nature, goes hiking, enjoys yoga, and enjoys amazing adventures with her husband Dennis.

*Name changed to protect privacy

Giving is Living

This past July, the Forest Hill Middle School Urban Serve group brought to life the old adage that your greatness is not what you have, it’s what you give. The teens joined us for a three-day campus beautification service project that included painting benches, refreshing the children’s garden, laying mulch and more.

Laura Wilson and Ellie Lacey of Forest Hill Church shared that the project provided a great opportunity to empower their students to serve others in their community in small and simple ways. Volunteer Ellie Golbus remarked, “I believe that serving Alexander is important because we are called to serve locally in our community. At Alexander I am given the chance to meet kids that have had a difficult upbringing and help them to build healthy relationships. I am fortunate to be raised in my family and serving Alexander allows me an opportunity to give back.”

Alexander welcomes nearly 1,200 volunteers to our various campus locations each year. Volunteers can serve in several different capacities, including beautification and clean-up, tutoring, lunch and dinner buddies and more. Interested in volunteer opportunities? Visit our website and fill out the volunteer interest form.

Cruising with TIAA

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TIAA Volunteers

Albert Einstein hit the nail on the head when he said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” The use of bicycles not only provides an excellent outlet for the big emotions children at Alexander Youth Network often experience, but the simple act of pedaling has actually been shown to help them self-regulate and self-soothe.

Many of the therapies utilized at Alexander are both rhythmic and repetitive in nature. These types of activities positively impact key neural networks which help children who have experienced trauma find their balance, physically and emotionally. Plus, biking is just plain fun. On any given day, the kids on the Alexander main campus can be seen hitting the trails and the quad with their staff, lunch and dinner buddies in tow. Pamela Rebak, a current volunteer lunch buddy for nine-year old Robert*, notes that Every time we ride bikes, I think of how one day my buddy will be able to look back on our time together and remember that in that moment he was just a kid on a bike, just like every other kid who has ever ridden a bike.”

With nearly 8,700 children served last year alone, Alexander maintains a constant need for new and lightly used bicycles. This past June, the agency was the lucky recipient of 20 new Specialized bikes donated by TIAA. The company hosted a bike build on their Charlotte campus, with staff members unpacking and assembling each bike as a team-building activity. Jarian Kerekes, Director of Corporate and Social Responsibility for TIAA shared, “Our staff had a great time assembling the bikes and contributing to a cause about which we feel passionate. We’re glad to know that the bikes provided by TIAA will put smiles on so many faces.”

Interested in volunteer opportunities? We have a variety of ways for you to help our children. Visit our website and fill out the volunteer interest form.

 

*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Carole and Larry Nicholson

Carole and Larry Nicholson
Carole and Larry Nicholson, Pet Therapy Volunteers at Alexander Youth Network

Meet Alexander volunteers Carole and Larry Nicholson. They moved to Charlotte from Tennessee and have been living here for 20 years. Carole, now a retired community volunteer, used to work in advertising and marketing and Larry works in the bank security industry. They have two boys and three grandchildren ages 9, 7 and 1 month old. They enjoy doing the pet therapy program at Alexander, which provides special therapeutic visits to kids who would benefit from interaction with a well-trained, loving pet.

How did you get involved with pet therapy at Alexander Youth Network?

We have always have had dogs at home and have been doing pet therapy for 15 years. We started out doing pet therapy at nursing homes, and shortly after we met Cindi Leckey who told us about Alexander Youth Network. After we got two puppies, we trained them to become therapy dogs. We currently visit the kids in the Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) on the fourth Saturday of each month. We also visit the kids in the Day Treatment program once a month. The kids love the dogs – when they see the dogs on the playground, they yell and run towards them.  If the dog is sick, they get worried. They know what the dogs like and dislike. The kids even have nicknames for our dogs Bailey and Daisy – they call them Vanilla and Chocolate.

What has surprised you most about volunteering in pet therapy?

It’s wonderful to see how loving the kids are towards the pets. I especially love to see how excited they are when the dogs arrive to campus. As a volunteer at other organizations you don’t always get quick feedback, but as Alexander volunteers we get immediate positive feedback from the kids – it makes us want to visit Alexander and help more.

Any inspiring stories to share?

I remember a memorable story. It happened 7 years ago during a Saturday visit. We were visiting with the kids, and I saw a sad little girl sitting in the corner. I walked over with my dog Daisy, and Daisy went to the little girl and gave her a kiss. The little girl stopped crying and I saw her smiling. She later told the staff: “Daisy came to make me feel better.”

What do you wish other people knew about Alexander?

I am impressed by Alexander’s staff and how they interact with the children. They give equal attention and care to each child. The staff members in Day Treatment are especially patient. I was also surprised to see that there are so many opportunities to volunteer. I had no idea that there was so much available we can do with the kids.

What do you do when you aren’t working or volunteering?

We provide pet therapy at assisted living communities and an Alzheimer day care. We also bring the dogs to a local CMS school to assist as tail wagging tutors. The third graders love reading to the dogs and it gives them the confidence to learn English, especially since a lot of them are ESL (English as a Second Language) students.

Interested in volunteer opportunities? We have a variety of ways for you to help our children. Visit our website and fill out the volunteer interest form.

Volunteer Spotlight: Pressly Williams

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Pressly Williams, Alexander Volunteer

Meet Alexander volunteer Pressly Williams. Pressly is 25 years old and grew up a couple of miles from Alexander. After college, she joined the family business (Renfrow Hardware). She also operates and manages a small farm in downtown Matthews called Renfrow Farms which sells fruits, vegetables, flowers and honey. She has been married to her husband for two years and is actively involved in their church. Pressly has been a dinner buddy for the past three months and enjoys doing all kinds of activities with her buddy.

What surprised you most about volunteering as a dinner buddy?

I was surprised to see just how much these kids crave adult interaction, constancy in relationship, and individualized attention. It’s been super fun to get to know and spend one-on-one time with an 11 year old. Despite our many differences, we have developed a true friendship throughout the past several months!

Any funny or inspiring stories to share about your dinner buddy?

My dinner buddy and I just have so much fun together!  My buddy and I play basketball together for a full hour almost every single week. She practically inhales her food every time I come so that we can get to the gym as quickly as possible.

What do you wish other people knew about Alexander?

I wish everyone knew just how heartbreaking it is to sit in the cafeteria at dinnertime, simply observing all of these precious children eating and talking. I watch them and am brought back to my own childhood days eating lunch at school, lighthearted and carefree. And yet these precious children, who are so young and beautiful, have experienced neglect and abuse that I cannot fathom, carrying burdens that I cannot conceive. And yet I know and see that we are in fact much more alike than we are different. We all want to be loved, cherished and valued.

Yet there is hope! The staff at Alexander are doing all that is in their power to help these children cope with their troubles, learn to control their behaviors, heal from the trauma that has so deeply wounded them, and understand their worth and value in this world. The staff are truly changing lives with their deliberate care for these kids. We volunteers are privileged to come alongside them and be part of these precious children’s lives for this season!

What do you do when you aren’t working or volunteering?

I enjoy spending time with my husband, family and friends. I am a fanatic about growing flowers and love that it gets to be part of my job! I also love to read and listen to podcasts.

Interested in volunteer opportunities? We have a variety of ways for you to help our children. Visit our website and fill out the volunteer interest form.

Volunteer Spotlight: Cynthia Peace, Ebenezer Baptist Church

During National Volunteer Week (April 10 – 16), Alexander Youth Network featured Ebenezer Baptist Church on its Facebook page, highlighting the church’s visit to our Charlotte campus during Easter and doing an Easter egg hunt with kids in our Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF). We met with Ebenezer Baptist Church group leader Cynthia Peace and learned about her involvement with Alexander.

Cynthia first learned about Alexander through her niece Kendel and began volunteering last year. When she heard about Alexander’s need for volunteers during Easter this year, she got excited about meeting the kids and interacting with them. “It was rewarding to see how the kids helped each other find eggs. We saw kids take some of what they had found and share with others. Alexander has everything on site that a child will need to get them the help they need to get back on track and in school,” Cynthia said. Ebenezer Baptist Church volunteers couldn’t stop raving about their experience at Alexander. “Each person one that volunteered for the Easter egg hunt plans to return. One of our volunteers would like her son, a Psychology major, to volunteer at Alexander while he is home this summer,” she said.

Volunteering at Alexander was one of the most fulfilling times I’ve had this year. To see how spending a few hours doing an Easter egg hunt makes so many kids smile made me happy. It was truly an Easter blessing for each of us.

Cynthia currently works at Winston-Salem State University as Associate Director of Financial Aid. She lives in Charlotte and commutes to Winston-Salem each day. She enjoys spending time with her twins (who are away at college) and her daughter who is based in Greensboro. In her free time, she loves cooking their favorite foods whenever they visit home.