Helen Wood has fond memories of United Methodist Family Services. When she was 4 years old, her mother was a member of the UMFS Women’s Auxiliary. While her mother volunteered, Helen kept busy with a coloring book and an eight-pack of crayons. Today, she’s a member of Chamberlayne Heights United Methodist Church and keeps busy leading the Auxiliary as its President. “To be involved is a passion for me,” Helen said. “And the people have been so welcoming.”
Dot Gay attends Laurel Hill UMC and has been a member of the Auxiliary since the 1990s. Some of the most impactful moments she’s experienced during her time as a UMFS volunteer have been at Commencement ceremonies, in which youth at UMFS celebrate the completion of their residential treatment. Dot recalled one Commencement in particular and the profound words a father said to UMFS staff and leadership: “Thank you for giving my son back to me.” It’s a moment Dot said she’ll never forget.
The Auxiliary has been providing moral and spiritual support to the children and teens at UMFS since the days it was an orphanage. The Auxiliary formed in 1929, and its earliest efforts included furnishing the orphanage with fireplace sets, pianos, and washing machines. The generosity and monetary support continues to this day, and just as UMFS has evolved, so too has the Auxiliary. Composed of volunteers from local churches, the Auxiliary had been an all-women organization until recently. The bylaws changed to allow men to become members, and Helen’s husband, Phin, is one of three men who currently serve.
“The Auxiliary is an extension of our agency,” said Greg Peters, UMFS President and CEO. “They are a compassionate group of unwavering champions for young people. Every member provides a level of care and attention to detail that brings joy to children and teens who are facing challenging circumstances.”
That attention to detail is evidenced in the quarterly birthday lunches the Auxiliary hosts for young people at UMFS. The group makes a point to recognize each and every child’s birthday with a celebration of lunch, cake, games, and presents, of course. It remains one of the Auxiliary’s most popular activities, perhaps because — as many students have noted through the years — it’s the only birthday party they’ve ever had.
Also popular are the Auxiliary’s annual square dance and high tea, during which young people at UMFS get to don elaborate hats and formal neckties as they are treated to a traditional lunch experience. “The students are always appreciative and respectful,” said Helen (pictured).
The Auxiliary has built trust with the children and teens at UMFS by maintaining a consistent presence and connecting with them on a personal level. Dot noted that sometimes students don’t want to talk, so to break the ice she’ll turn to sports as a conversation starter. And if that doesn’t work? “I’ll try to guess their age,” she said smiling. “You know, just try to find some common ground.”
And the ability to find common ground is just one of the many reasons the Auxiliary is vital to UMFS. “The work they do for our agency, and especially for our young people, is just remarkable,” Greg said.
Said Dot: “It’s one of the greatest things our church does.”
Want to learn how you can make a difference as a volunteer? UMFS.org/get-involved/volunteer/