Laura had no intention of volunteering the first time she stepped foot in Seattle Goodwill’s South Everett Job Training and Education (JTE) Center.
In fact, Laura had no knowledge of Goodwill’s mission.
“I got here purely by chance,” Laura admitted.
Years ago Laura helped establish a community garden in Mukilteo. She met an Iranian single mother who gardened there, and the two struck up a strong relationship. One day, the woman invited Laura to the education center for a graduation event, and less than 30 minutes into it, Laura was hooked. She knew she wanted to be involved in Goodwill’s mission.
“I walked into the graduation event, looked around and said, ‘Wow, this is interesting. Look at the variety of people here,’” Laura recalled. “Within half an hour, I met (JTE Center Manager) Susan Allen and said, ‘Do you need anybody?’”
That was the genesis of what’s been a two-and-a-half-year relationship between Laura and Seattle Goodwill.
Laura has donated more than 300 volunteer hours, starting out as an instructor’s aide in computer classes before transitioning to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes. With the help of South Everett ESOL instructor Janice Powell, Laura has created a successful talk-time sessions, in which twice a week she meets with ESOL students to facilitate conversations around American culture, idioms, speech patterns and analogies.
“I’m a gregarious person,” Laura said, “and it touches me when that light goes on for someone and they go, ‘Ah, I figured it out on my own. You know, I can do this now.’ I get good feelings from watching other people succeed, so I’m sort of rooting for them.”
While volunteering is an integral piece of Laura’s life—she’s volunteered for United Way, a community co-op and was a producer for Everett community radio station 90.7 FM for several years—her commitment to Goodwill is impressive.
Beyond the hours she volunteers at the center, she also uses personal time at home to learn Spanish using Rosetta Stone, so she’s better equipped to communicate with Spanish-speaking students.
Why does Laura commit so much personal time to facilitate the learning of others? It’s the inspiration she draws from her students and the time they dedicate to self-improvement.
“Everybody that comes here has a life,” Laura said. “They work or perhaps they have families that work, and they are doing this, too. That level of commitment makes me want to commit, too.”
Outside of the mental and emotional engagement Laura said she receives from volunteering at Goodwill, it’s the relationships she’s forged with the South Everett JTE staff that keeps her coming back session after session.
“Her initiative is absolutely amazing,” said Susan of Laura. “That’s one of the things I noticed from the beginning is her ability to see something and think, ‘How can I use this to help more?’”