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Community and Being a Reward Volunteer: The Family Service Center

This is a sponsored post but the story and opinions are all mine. This post is sponsored by Reward Volunteers for National Volunteer Month.

Two things happened in the last few years that made me consider my own community efforts and what, if anything, I could be doing more of for my neighbors. First, I learned the origins of a house that was directly across from the school I was working at that had some amazing history attached to it. While it’s not on any historic registry, I found out that a Black woman named Eva Carroll Monroe founded the Lincoln Colored Home in 1898 to set up an orphanage for Black children since all the other orphanages in town were solely for white children. Eva’s work as a social worker was highlighted as she realized that Black children were left to the streets or taken to juvenile jails. The current owner of the house, Lee Hubbard, took me on a tour of the dilapidated home expressing how much he would love to see it restored. At the time, it didn’t even have a Wikipedia page, but my husband, Russell, worked on that.



The second thing was a chance meeting with a friend of mine named Brooke who worked at the Family Service Center. She knew some of my own interest in the Lincoln Colored Home, but she also knew of my own background as a birth mom as well as a teen mom. Over lunch one day, Brooke asked me if I was interested in being a community volunteer on the Board of Directors. I joined the Executive Director and the president of the Board for lunch at FSC and, upon my tour, I noticed a large picture of people who were instrumental in getting FSC started with their mission. It surprised me that so many of the photographs were of Black community members in Springfield and that the photos were so obviously old. The biggest surprise came when I realized that the photo at the top of one of the founders was none other than Eva Carroll Monroe.

That did it for me. I was hooked.


Not only was this something that was historically significant for me as a Black woman, but it fit into my ideology of caring for marginalized children in society. Their mission of supporting strong families for strong communities drew me in, and I have given my time to volunteering for them for almost three years now. Organizations do their Board of Directors very differently and there are others I’ve considered but they are sometimes prohibitive in what they require as far as massive donations to sit on them.


The Family Service Center is a meaningful volunteer opportunity for me because of what it allows me to give back in terms of my time and energy. We are deeply invested in continuing the mission of the Center so our monthly meetings consist of fundraising, business partnerships, staff development and many other things. One of my favorite parts is being able to celebrate with the families they serve after an adoption is complete or when a family has been reunited. At my first board meeting I learned that the adoption judge in town completes each legal proceeding by telling the families the same thing: “I hereby order your family to now go get some ice cream to celebrate this.”


Giving back, in this way, doesn’t cost me anything other than my time for those meetings or attending the events we plan whether it’s a Trivia Night or our end-of-the-year fundraiser each May when we invite the community to celebrate with us, our families, and the staff. I use Reward Volunteers to log my hours and keep a record of the good I’m helping to put back into the world. What’s great about that is how encouraged I feel when I see other people doing similar things for their communities. There are prizes available but, honestly, I rarely sign up for those simply because it’s more fun for me to see various opportunities that are out there. 

I urge my friends and everyone I know to become engaged locally in whatever ways they choose. It’s poignant that the Family Service Center is something to which I had multiple ties and that’s exactly how I tell people to do this. What do you already care about? What has affected you personally that you’re now in a place to do something about? It won’t necessarily start with a story of an abandoned house lost to history or an inspiring Black woman who made change in tangible ways for this town. That one belongs to me.

What belongs to you?

Find out more about Reward Volunteers by clicking this link.

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