Hundreds of volunteers ensure the Haven is an organization of the community, for the community
Interact with one of the Haven’s programs—Food Shelf, Hixon House Adult Shelter, children’s after-school program and summer camp, or the Haven campus and gardens—and chances are, you’ll meet a volunteer. “In many ways, volunteers are the face of the Haven,” notes Amber Johnston, Director of Community Education and Volunteer Services.
The numbers speak for themselves. Last fiscal year, 1,582 people donated 34,470 hours to 16 different programs, the equivalent of 16 full-time staff. Volunteers range in age from 14 to 87 years. “We have teenagers, families, retired Dartmouth professors, and former shelter guests,” says Volunteer Coordinator Kerri Weeks. “They work hard and give their time, yet they tell us they feel like they get more than they give.”
This spirit of service and gratitude was exemplified by the late Mary Ellen Flanagan. A lifelong Vermonter, Mary Ellen volunteered at the Haven for nearly 40 years. Many of those years were spent as part of a crew that worked at the Food Shelf on Friday mornings from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm.
“Mary Ellen was feisty, and she was one of the most positive and kind individuals you could ever meet,” remembers Food Shelf Manager Lori Wick. “She never missed a shift, and she was such a ray of sunshine. Mary Ellen loved taking new visitors through the Food Shelf. It was her absolute favorite thing to do, and she did a remarkable job. We know that for some of the people who come to the Food Shelf, it’s not easy to ask for help. Oftentimes, when new visitors come in, they are stressed. Mary Ellen was so warm and welcoming, she would help them relax. By the time they left, they would be smiling.”
Mary Ellen volunteered from 1981 until health issues prevented her from coming in. The mother of eight passed away in August 2020, still finding a way to give back to the Haven. In her obituary, Mary Ellen requested that memorial gifts be directed to us.
“We are so lucky to have so many wonderful volunteers—like Mary Ellen—who give so freely of their time,” Amber concludes. “They ensure that the Haven is an organization of the community for the community.”