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Psi Chi Service Reflection: HAVEN Gift Giveaway

MSP is committed to giving back to our local community.  We are proud that the MSP Psi Chi chapter sent volunteers to assist with HAVEN’s Gift Giveaway again this December.  Jessie Dluzynski (PsyD 4), current Psi Chi President, shares her reflection on the experience this year.

Photo of all the donated gifts in the giveaway room
All of the generously donated gifts!

I could not wait for this year’s 30th Annual HAVEN Gift Giveaway to arrive. I had the opportunity to volunteer at the event last year and it was such a wonderful experience that I knew I would return. I could not wait to step into the shopping room to view the sea of donated coats/hats/gloves, clothing, household items, personal care items, and toys. I could not wait to help the shopping guests choose items for their children, as well as items for themselves. Most of all, I could not wait to see the faces of each and every guest as he or she set stepped into the shopping room filled with love.

HAVEN, a non-profit organization located in Oakland County, is a comprehensive program for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. HAVEN provides shelter, counseling, advocacy, and educational programming to nearly 20,000 people each year. The Gift Giveaway event welcomes anyone who has received services from HAVEN within the past year to shop for gifts. This year’s event was held on-site at HAVEN’s beautiful facility.

I arrived for my shift, eager to get started with the day and help people shop! Last year’s experience provided a foundational understanding of the structure of Gift Giveaway, thus allowing me to worry less about what I was doing and focus more on sharing in such a meaningful experience with each shopper. As a volunteer, I was responsible for greeting the guests, obtaining ages/sizes of any children, and guiding shoppers through all the shopping stations. This included helping guests search the goods for appropriate styles and sizes, and organizing gifts to be loaded into cars or buses.  The mothers I shopped with were giddy when choosing toys and clothing for their children, shed happy tears when it was time to choose their own coat, and repeatedly expressed appreciation for the care and kindness received.

Near the end of my shift, as the next set of volunteers rolled in, I took a minute to look around and soak it all in. I could not help but think that earlier in the year, many of the now shining faces were faced with great difficulty. It made me extra thankful that places like HAVEN exist for people to seek safety and help to survive. HAVEN goes above and beyond to educate the community and help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. This year’s Gift Giveaway provided items for 210 clients and 518 children. All together, over 250 volunteers helped pick out and pack up clothing, personal care items, and gifts for a total of 728 people! I’m already looking forward to volunteering again next year, and hope that after reading this you will, too!

Dluzynski Jessica AtriumJessie Dluzynski, MA, TLLP is in her fourth year in the MSP doctoral program.  This is her second year as President of the MSP Psi Chi chapter.  She is also the recent winner of the Jill Benton Humanistic Psychology Scholarship.