Category Archives: Volunteer Profiles

Boeing Employees Outreach to the Homeless at Christmas

On Wednesday, December 14, employees from Boeing made a very special delivery to Room at the Inn.

The Employee Engagement Team at Boeing began working mid-November to fill the wishes of 34 Room at the Inn families and 30 Covenant House teens. Covenant House gives teens (ages 16 to 20) hope and the opportunity to break the cycle of chronic homelessness and unemployment.

“It means a lot to our clients that people care and are looking out for them, especially during the holidays,” says Twanda Watson, an outreach worker with Covenant House. “People don’t realize just how many homeless teens are out there.”

Boeing’s connection with Room at the Inn and Covenant House began years ago when Frank Gilmore started the adopt-a-family project with both shelters. Before he retired eight years ago, he wanted to be sure the project would continue and it did when Kathleen Willis, an office administrator for Boeing, happily took it over from Frank.

“As soon as I get the wish lists from Room at the Inn and Covenant House, I send out an email and flyer to get the word out around Boeing,” says Kathleen. “Individuals or groups pick families and start shopping! It’s a wonderful project that Frank started.”

Five hundred employees of the F-18 Aircraft Program at Boeing came together this year to adopt the families and teens. A Boeing facilities truck from the program made the delivery to Room.

“I feel honored to be a part of this. It really makes me step back and think how blessed the average American is,” says Natalie Frenz, a flight loads engineer at Boeing who helped deliver the presents. “It’s our obligation to give back to those in need in our community.”

Program director Joann Nowak, O.S.F. agrees.

“This is what Christmas is all about and the families know how blessed they are to receive the gifts,” says Sister Joann. “We are very grateful to our friends at Boeing for the difference they make in the lives of our clients and former clients.”

On behalf of the staff and clients at Room at the Inn, have a wonderful New Year!

High School Adopts Room Families for Christmas

Santa Claus came early to Room at the Inn!

On December 13, two school buses full of presents pulled up to Room at the Inn. Also on the bus were faculty members and students from Hazelwood West High School.  Physics teacher Karl Hermann started the Room at the Inn charity project in 2005 when his wife, a Boeing employee, told him how the employees there adopt Room families each Christmas. Matthew Moellering, Speech Language Pathologist at the high school, led the project this year along with National Honor Society students.

“We start the end of October by giving a speech to the staff about the history of Room at the Inn. The teachers then talk to the classrooms and ask the students if they would be interested in adopting a family,” explains Matthew. “Client coordinator Angie Hamilton works with the families to get the wish lists. We assign the lists to the classrooms based on the size of the family.”

This year, 18 classrooms participated by buying presents for their adopted families. Several teachers donated money and National Honor Society students adopted the biggest family on the list. The students purchase gifts on their own by using money from their part-time jobs. The National Art Honor Society students also made knitted and fleece hats and scarves for any Room client in need of winter accessories.

“The students learn to be charitable by participating. One girl spent over $320 on toys for one family,” says Karl, who enjoys working on the project every year. “Another boy lost his part-time job at a restaurant and for his last check, wanted to be sure the money was spent on something meaningful that wouldn’t be forgotten. He chose to buy toys for a Room at the Inn family.”

After the gifts were purchased, the teachers held “wrapping parties” for the students in the classrooms with donuts to reward them for their hard work. Seniors in the National Honor Society accompany the faculty to drop off the presents at Room at the Inn to see the shelter.

“The faculty and students really come through for us every year. The families get very emotional when they see all the presents,” says Angie. “It’s really outstanding what the school does for our families.”

We thank Hazelwood West High School for making Christmas wishes come true for our clients and our former clients, half of which are children. To view more photos of Hazelwood’s delivery, please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RoomSTL.

On behalf of the staff and clients at Room at the Inn, Merry Christmas!

Carpenter Shares Talents for Room at the Inn

If you have been to any of our Breakfast with the INN Crowd events, then you have seen the beautiful carpentry of Jim Blubaugh. Jim donates his time and talents to create unique items for the auction.

A master carpenter, Jim worked for Thomas Construction for many years and after retiring, continued to keep busy in his workshop making wooden furniture and crafts for family and friends. When Breakfast committee member and friend Mickey Linck asked him to make a dollhouse for the 2010 auction, Jim quickly agreed. More than 50 hours of caring labor went into the creation of a grand, two and one-half story custom-designed dollhouse that served as a valuable oral auction item.

The following year, a Room board member suggested the idea of a “Wishing Wall” to solicit for small needed shelter items that Breakfast attendees could opt to support with donations. A physical display needed to be constructed to list the items. Mickey and Breakfast co-chair Ana Schulz worked together on the plans for a portable “Wishing Wall” for Jim to create that could be used year after year. Lo and behold, Jim created a wonderful display board with artistic flare that has now become a standing addition to the fundraising event.

For the upcoming 2012 Breakfast, Ana thought birdhouses might make wonderful centerpieces.

“I sheepishly asked Jim if he could make 35 birdhouses, fully expecting him to say no,” recalls Ana. “Instead, he quickly responded yes … with a qualifier!”

“I told Ana, ‘if you’d asked me for 36, the answer is no … but because it’s 35, I’ll do it!'” jokes Jim, who ended up creating 35 one-of-a-kind walnut birdhouses for indoor decoration. “They are all signed, numbered and stamped with the date of the event. Sometimes I use a pattern, but most of the designs are out of my own head. I enjoyed making them.”

“Once again, he has wowed us with his craftsmanship,” says Ana. “He also created four lovely butterfly houses for our auction since butterflies are part of our theme. Room at the Inn is blessed to have such a gifted artisan with a heart that matches his talent. His contributions to the success of the Breakfast have been invaluable.”

Jim and his lovely wife, Rita, recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. They have four children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. We thank Jim for helping the homeless in our area by supporting our auction through his donations and talents. If you would like to be involved in or attend our next Breakfast with the Inn Crowd on April 20, 2012, please visit our website at www.roomstl.org/events.php for details. We hope to see you there!

Putting Theory into Practice

“I like to give a helping hand to someone in need,” says practicum student James Washington.

A former basketball coach and a disabled veteran, James decided to start a new career in social work. He is currently enrolled at Florissant Valley Community College and will be graduating in 2012 with a degree in human services.

James is one of about 20 practicum students who come to Room at the Inn every year to learn first-hand about the field of social services. Volunteer coordinator Stephanie Turck, CDP is invited during the fall and spring semesters to speak to students at Florissant Valley about the intern opportunities at Room at the Inn. She also receives calls from other local colleges asking about openings.

“I always tell students to come right away because space fills up quickly,” Sr. Stephanie explains. “We want to make sure every student is doing something meaningful during their practicum so we limit the number of students we take at any given time.”

Practicum students work side by side with the shelter staff; they attend various meetings and visit area food banks in addition to interacting with clients. Students gain practical experience and Room at the Inn gains valuable volunteer hours that save the shelter hundreds of dollars each year.

“I’ve only been here a few days but already, I’m sitting in on client interviews, answering the phone and helping with supplies,” James says, then quickly adds. “It’s great!”

Sr. Stephanie believes helping the homeless is one of the best ministries within to work. She invites volunteers of all types to work at Room at the Inn.

“You won’t leave here the same person you were when you came,” Sr. Stephanie tells the students confidently. “If you want a life changing experience, work at Room at the Inn because it will change you.”

We welcome volunteers of all ages, with all kinds of talents!

Donate Now

Help the Homeless

Connect with Us

Sign up for INN-Sider!

Receive the INN-Sider newsletter and other updates about our shelter via email.