“I was really drawn to the interfaith approach of Room’s program and how they educate and engage the community through the night sites,” says Valorie Ferlis, program director of Room at the Inn. “I was familiar with the shelter and the work they do because my husband was a night site volunteer at Eliot Unitarian Chapel several years ago. He just loved it.”
Valorie has a bachelor of science degree in Child Development and Family Relations from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and nearly 30 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. She worked at the American Red Cross for almost 19 years in several key positions including as the manager of disaster services, family assistance supervisor, emergency services supervisor, division trainer and case manager. Valorie worked as the events specialist as Children’s Concepts and director/marketing manager of KIDSPLAY, Inc. She was also the resource development director and volunteer coordinator at Humantri for almost nine years where she first began working with the homeless in our community.
“Humanitri’s focus was on transitional housing and clients had up to two years to complete the program,” explains Valorie. “Many of the aspects of that program are similar to Room’s but since this is an emergency shelter, we only have 30 days to work with clients to accomplish their goals.”
As the program director, Valorie is responsible for the entire operation of Room at the Inn, specifically directing the shelter program, supervising staff and fiscal management. She is looking forward to visiting the night sites to express gratitude for what they do and to see Room’s program in action.
“The night site volunteers have direct interaction with our clients who need that positive experience of seeing first-hand that people really do care about them. Volunteers prepare the meals, play with the kids and can provide emotional support, if a client is open to it,” says Valorie. “That fellowship can make such a difference to someone whose self-esteem has been damaged by the circumstances they are in.”
Valorie believes that restoring a client’s self-esteem while they are in a shelter program is key to helping them become self-reliant again.
“One of the best things we can do for our clients is to make them feel like they can start over again,” she says. “They can grow through this experience and come out on the other side stronger because of it.”