A week ago, fellow volunteer Leticia Foster and I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Salvation Army’s Center of Hope. The Center is Charlotte’s only year-round emergency shelter, serving more than 1,000 children each year. The project gives volunteers a chance to spend an hour with the children at the Center. Typically, organized activities include board games, arts and crafts and outdoor playtime on the playground.
This was my first time at the Center, and I didn’t really know what to expect. As soon as I walked in I was greeted by two little girls who ran up and gave me a huge hug and did not want me to put them down. I picked them up, held them for awhile, and when their mom told them it was time to go, they would not let go. That was truly a special moment for me. I realized then how much these children appreciate the attention we are able to offer them through this project.
The time spent with the children serves as an outlet that allows them to simply be kids for an hour. During our time at the Center, we played some childhood classics such as Trouble, Chutes and Ladders and Scrabble. It was refreshing to play good, old-fashioned board games again. I had forgotten how much I loved them as a kid. Although, we both realized how far removed from childhood we really are when the kids began beating us at our own game. Leticia described the night as a “flashback to her elementary school years“, and was amazed to see the innocence of the children while interpreting the games in their own fashion.
Project leader Beth Butchino said she initially started with the project to establish connections with the children. I can see how time with these warm, smiling faces can keep you coming back. The children genuinely look forward to this project every week. Leticia had one child ask her, “Is this every week?” The time spent with the children was rewarding and memorable. Both Leticia and I hope to consistently volunteer at this project in order to give the children some familiar faces to look forward to every week. The project meets every Wednesday from 6:45-8pm. To sign up, please visit our website.
Kristen Okamoto is a Hands On Charlotte volunteer.