Retiree helps children find strength

I spent my career as a nurse helping others feel stronger. Volunteering during my retirement is an extension of my commitment to support the community in any way I can. My history of volunteer work was with a local co-op preschool and then Red Barn, an after-school program in Pierce County.

Volunteering at Children’s Home Society of Washington’s Little Buddies program at the Key Peninsula Family Resource Center has been a joy and helped me put myself in the shoes of students. It’s a free program for students to make new friends and try new activities.  I was connected with CSHW through my local community center.

I have been volunteering at the center for a few months now and my relationships with the children have come a long way in this time. As my supervisor Kathryn Lupfer has said, “Little Buddies is about letting children know that they have someone they can trust and rely on.”

I think the children originally thought, what could a 67-year-old person do to help and have fun? They joke around with me now and think I’m cool. It makes me feel good knowing I can help youth feel listened to and like someone cares. Young people need a mentor to show them how to be a kinder and more caring person. Teaching them to love themselves, so they can love others, is the most important thing we can accomplish.  

Little Buddies is a wonderfully small group where you can really get to know the children one on one. I love being a mentor for them and helping them with art, homework, and reading with them. We enjoyed painting bird houses and try to do something different every week with them. I also bring cookies.

Some of the children have challenges and I want to make sure they feel comfortable and enjoy their time at Little Buddies. We discuss what words are appropriate and the importance of being kind to each other and treating each other with respect.

One girl is struggling with how she treats others and I’m working with her to look at things with more positivity. I ask her why she feels a certain way. She’s coming around and I can see her talking more with others. Giving children self-confidence when they are younger is important, especially if they don’t have the support at home.

Everyone has something to give. If all of us can give a little piece by volunteering, our community can become stronger and that benefits all families. Even if it’s just making a batch of cookies, or volunteering a few hours a week, a little gesture can make the world of difference in a child’s life.

Lana Thigpen is a volunteer at the Key Peninsula Family Resource Center.