HAVEN is Oakland County’s only comprehensive program for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The organization provides shelter, counseling, advocacy, and educational programming to nearly 30,000 people every year. Each winter, HAVEN facilitates a large-scale gift giveaway for individuals who received their services during the past year. Each person is able to select special gifts for members of their immediate household, at no charge.
MSP regularly sends a group of volunteers to the Gift-Giveaway event as HAVEN has hosted a number of our master’s-level practicum students in previous years. This year we sent eight volunteers, not including myself: Jeff Cross (Director of Information Technology & Building Services), Dr. Jill Castro (Assistant Director of Clinical Training), Candi Wilson (Electronic Resources Coordinator/Academic Librarian), Dr. Dondi Browner (Director of Outreach & Development), Amani Fadlallah (MA), Steven Conyers (MA), Nathan Hayrynen (MA), and Brittany DeFrain (PsyD). Our volunteer shift ran from 1:00 PM to 4:30 PM and our responsibilities included helping clients with their “shopping,” restocking tables, organization, and trash disposal.
I have never volunteered for an event like the Gift-Giveaway so I’m not really sure what I was expecting. The client waiting room was so packed that I had to enter through a separate entrance for volunteers. When I walked into the “store” portion of the church, where the event is located, I couldn’t believe how much stock was available. I assumed that each person would be able to take one item per family member, but it was so much more than that. For each member of the client’s immediate family, there were four to five different categories of items he/she would choose. On top of individual gifts, there were family items like board games, blankets, kitchen supplies, books, and gift wrap that were collected as well.
Dr. Castro and I paired together to help clients with their shopping checklists. One volunteer would be in charge of the clipboard while the other carried a large bag as we collected gifts the client selected for his/her family. Our main role was to make sure the client was able to get everything they needed along with items for themselves. All three clients I worked with had the most difficult time with the latter – they wanted to get things for others instead. Everyone we worked with loved talking about their children and expressed sincere gratitude for our help.
Throughout the experience I was overwhelmed by my own sense of gratitude. Not only to HAVEN for facilitating such an awesome service for the community, but toward my MSP colleagues for participating with me. Until you immerse yourself in volunteerism/community outreach you really don’t understand how skewed your own perceptions of reality can be. There is so much in life to be thankful for – regardless of the circumstances.
Adreena Harley, the Donations Coordinator at HAVEN, said that the 2014 giveaway event serviced over 800 individuals and continues to grow each year. Without the generosity of donors both large and small (Barnes and Noble donated $2,500 of books!) and the time and effort of volunteers like us, events like these would not be possible.
If you are interested and able, HAVEN accepts a variety of different donations. Please visit their donation page for more information: https://www.haven-oakland.org/donate.
By Tori A. Holmes, MAE, Coordinator of Admissions & Student Engagement