“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” ― Kahlil Gibran
In the spirit of the season, Group Delphi is profiling some of the many ways in which its staff members serve the community through the gift of their time.
Jennifer McNerney, Director of Account Management
Volunteer Work: Literacy tutor
She learned the virtues of volunteering when she was a child.
“My mother ingrained it in me,” she recalls. “She would say, ‘If you can’t give someone else an hour of your time each week, there’s something wrong.'”
When Jennifer’s own children were young, they worked alongside her at a food bank so they could experience the rewards and obligations of giving.
“It’s so important,” she says, “even if you can just give an hour. We’re very privileged — we haven’t had the hardships that some have had, so it’s really important to find a way to give back.”
For the Love of Reading
After her children grew up, Jennifer needed a new outlet for volunteering, and found inspiration in her love of books. Now she is a member of Alameda Reads, an organization that helps adults improve their lives through enhanced literacy skills.
Her first student was a recent high school graduate who had aged out of the foster care system and was in a job training program. Jennifer helped her improve her reading comprehension, and she was able to earn her certificate as a nursing assistant.
Now Jennifer is tutoring a woman seeking advancement at the non-profit where she is employed. When she entered the program, she was reading and writing at a 3rd- or 4th-grade level; two years later, Jennifer has helped her build skills that will provide new opportunities in her life and career.
Patience and perseverance are essential. Jennifer acknowledges that progress can be slow, but the end results are immense.
“You don’t notice the improvement week to week,” she observes, “but we look back every three months or so and it is really encouraging.”
The Joy of Giving
Like most volunteers, Jennifer gets as much as she gives.
“It’s surprising how relatively small amounts of time can make such an enormous difference, and it goes both ways. The person I am working with gives me a lot back; being able to create something better for her makes it a two-way street.
“Volunteering also puts things in perspective,” she adds. “It gets you out of thinking that your problems are very difficult when you are dealing with people who have much greater challenges.”
Her advice to others who are considering giving of their time: Don’t be daunted by your own busy schedule. You don’t need special skills or huge amounts of time to make a big difference in someone else’s life.
“When we volunteered at the food bank, recipients of aid would often volunteer their own time,” she said. “I was impressed with the fact that people who were in need could still find a way to make a contribution. So we certainly can do that.”
Alameda Reads is comprehensive program that helps adults improve their literacy skills. They provide training for volunteers as well as ongoing support and materials. For more information, visit: https://alamedaca.gov/library/alameda-reads