JLS Provisional Project: Volunteering at Ryther

During her first year in the Junior League of Seattle, a Provisional member is assigned a project that gets her involved in the community in a variety of ways. One of the Provisional project opportunities is working with the League’s Done-in-a-Day (DIAD) committee. DIAD focuses on hands-on, short-term projects that are planned and implemented on a monthly basis to benefit organizations in the greater Seattle area in need of assistance. Ryther, a Seattle-area facility that provides behavioral health services for children and their families, is one of the organizations with which DIAD works. Two JLS Provisional members shared their experiences working with Ryther on this committee. See their thoughts below:

“I’ve known about Ryther for many years. Having received my master’s in psychology, I had the privilege of knowing someone who worked at Ryther’s clinic during their graduate internship. Ryther’s reputation is strong for providing care to children and families in need. I’m so grateful for organizations like this that exist. Even more so, I’m excited to be a part of an organization like the Junior League of Seattle that partners with facilities like Ryther. It was a fantastic merge of two phenomenal organizations and I really enjoyed my time volunteering.

My Provisional project group led a hat painting activity for the children who were currently staying at the group home. The kids came one by one, sometimes in small groups of two or three. It was a cold and rainy day and as they walked timidly into the room, I hoped that our excited greetings wouldn’t scare them away. As the children sat and painted their hats, I began to think about the work we were doing that day and as a larger organization. As a group, JLS is involved in supporting many organizations across the Seattle area. In my provisional year alone, I came in contact with six organizations that were new to me: Mary’s Place, the YWCA, Ryther, Westside Baby, Seattle Urban Academy, and Washington DECA. I have learned so much about the organizations and services that are available to the Seattle community through these volunteer activities. This was one of the reasons why I joined JLS last year. I’ve been an active volunteer both through my church and my community since I was a pre-teen. I’ve loved being involved in promoting social justice, giving humanitarian aid to those in need and participating in philanthropic work. I’ve been a part of some amazing things. However, I’ve also witnessed how short-term volunteer opportunities can get a bad reputation. Critics will often say that short-term volunteer opportunities are not able to address the deep, longstanding issues that plague so many communities. In some ways, I agree.

As I sat and watched the young children come in one by one, I realized how organizations like JLS fit into the larger puzzle of social services. The Junior League of Seattle comes alongside many wonderful organizations and provides much needed assistance. When an urban school needs to feed its students, JLS sends women to cover those shifts, cook the food, and serve the meals. When the holidays are near and homeless women are without the means to provide for their families, JLS stands along the organizations that supply these families with gifts and food. And when an in-patient program could use an afternoon activity for their kids to participate in, JLS is available to fill the gap and provide the fun.Ryther 2

As the children painted their hats that afternoon, I wondered what they would be doing if our group wasn’t providing this extra activity for them. I didn’t know the stories of these children but I do know that in some ways, their childhoods have been difficult ones to bear. If painting a hat gave them some sense of normalcy, a moment of creativity, or a chance to take a short detour from their normal Sunday afternoon plans, then I was proud to be there for those few short minutes.  

Places like Ryther, the YWCA, and Mary’s Place are able to continue providing long-term services because of short-term volunteers like the women in JLS. We partner with those organizations to help them continue to do the deeper work in our community. As I left Ryther that afternoon, I felt a renewed sense of excitement for the work we were doing as an organization. By helping places like Ryther, we are participating in the deeper work. Even if it’s for a few hours on a rainy Sunday, we are adding to the overall work that is being done in that child’s life by sitting with them and painting a hat or showing them a moment of kindness.

 Be proud of what you do, women of Junior League.  We are doing great things.”

 -Catherine Golden (JLS Provisional 2014-15)

Ryther 1

Ryther was established in 1885 based on the principal “The essential thing is to love children and understand them.” Ryther provides programs and solutions for families with children who have challenges stemming from trauma, mental illness, substance abuse, Autism Spectrum Disorders, or adjustment issues with school, peers or parents. Ryther is dedicated to providing comprehensive services and innovative treatments. It guides, coaches and teaches so that every child and family it works with may experience new ways of thinking, develop positive relationships and realize a better life.

“Having the opportunity to volunteer here and witness the children interact and participate in projects was so rewarding! You can really see and feel that the children only want to be around people that love them and care about them. There were a few children that didn’t seem to necessarily love the idea of the project we had planned for them (tie-dying t-shirts). But, they loved participating and really got into creating something of their own to keep and enjoyed being around their peers, staff and volunteers! Everyone seemed to have a genuinely great time. The children were so excited and helped each other a lot. The children also provided a lot of encouraging words to their fellow peers, which was really rewarding to witness. Seeing what a positive impact Ryther has had on all of the children we interacted with was amazing to see first-hand. This was by far one of the best places I have ever volunteered!”

 -Amber Cuffel JLS Provisional 2014-15

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