Heart House flooded with volunteers

Sean McGowan
Dale Wyss, volunteer Heart House board member, picked up food and other goodies Dec. 6 from the Midwest Foodbank for the women, children and volunteers of Heart House.

Many volunteers come and go at the Heartline and Heart House facility—be it volunteers or moms and their children looking for temporary housing and other accommodations.

But the story behind each of these volunteers touches Executive Director Shay Carter in a meaningful way.

"There was this 6-year-old who decided for her birthday that she wanted to donate shoes to the women at Heart House," Carter said. "Her mom was ecstatic about that. So they got the shoes and brought them over to Heart House."

Major corporations like Advocate Eureka Hospital also show a generous spirit toward Heart House with their donations. Carter said Heart House needed some extra freezer space and the hospital delivered.

"We didn't even have to pray for it," Carter said. "God already knew what we needed and he basically said, 'Here you go.'"

Parson's Company Inc., Sanken's Automotive and Eureka Bible Church also contribute, with monetary donations.

Carter said individual volunteers do not match a description, stereotype or gender on a consistent basis. Rather, they come from a variety of backgrounds.

Carter listed husbands, wives, college students, youth groups, women who once used Heartline and Heart House services, and many other individuals.

The list goes on and on, and adding the total number of individual volunteers who gave their time to Heartline and Heart House in 2012, Carter said the number goes beyond 50.

"That doesn't count volunteers for special projects," Carter said. "We have people who paint, move things, provide childcare ... "We had a group of eight individuals from a youth group that came and provided childcare the last Tuesday in November."

To further exemplify the number of volunteers that serve the organization, Carter said the entire paid staff of Heartline and Heart House consists of only three people. Even the maintenance workers and receptionists who come in and help are volunteers.

"It pays off in the end," Carter said. "That's one less thing we have to worry about."

Another item to consider about the 2012 volunteer statistics is that the year is not over yet. Carter said the traditional Tree of Hearts effort put on by the organization is still in the works.

"I would say we have about 20 to 30 individuals help with the wrapping, last-minute shopping, the sorting ...," Carter said referring to the volunteers who participate in the Tree of Hearts.

Heart House's Tree of Hearts is a Christmas program that provides toys for anyone from zero to 17 years of age, as well as food baskets for families. The event involves the help of two partnering organizations: The Peoria Journal Star and the Salvation Army.

"This year (The Journal Star) is doing stockings," Carter said.

The Salvation Army ring the bells to collect donations and Heart House provides the toys. The bell ringers are mostly volunteer workers as well.

As a Heartline and Heart House employee who's seen what volunteerism does for an organization, Carter understands the quality of person that chooses to put in that time to serve others without expecting a reward. She also said that volunteer labor does not compare to any other kind of labor because of how valuable it is.

"That's the best kind of labor," Carter said. "It's not about a paycheck or recognition. It's just because it's a part of (their) character. And it's something (they're) passionate about and believe in."