Volunteers Are Champions Among Us

April 25, 2023

A few years ago, Chris Collier heard a quote that resonated with him. “Everybody wants to change the world, but you can really make a big difference if you just start helping one person at a time.” This memorable quote continues to inspire him to help others by giving back to his community today.

As a middle school math teacher who loves what he does, Chris reached out to UMFS to volunteer as a tutor. When he heard that what was really needed was mentors, Chris was more than happy to step up.

Over the last 16 months Chris has made a huge difference in the lives of three youth who are receiving treatment at the Child & Family Healing Center, UMFS’ residential mental health treatment program in Richmond.

Whether it’s a game of UNO, drawing or making cookies, Chris helps his mentees find and express their talents. One of his mentees even surprised him by drawing a portrait of Chris, complete with the artist’s unique signature. Chris asked for the drawing to be hung up somewhere on campus, because he wanted his mentee to see that his artwork was good enough to be displayed. While having someone to draw, eat or play with once a week is an activity we can all benefit from, Chris’ impact on his mentees goes deeper. Two boys that Chris mentored have families that live in Southwest Virginia, making it difficult for them to visit on a regular basis. “I know both boys wished they could have seen their families much more often than they did,” Chris said. “This is perhaps another reason why they appreciate having someone visit them on a regular basis and why a person might consider becoming a mentor.”

“It just takes someone to show up, because it shows you care.”

In addition to being beloved by those he’s mentored, Chris’s presence and impact is greatly appreciated by UMFS staff.

Sara Barrille, Administrative Services Manager at UMFS, shared the difference Chris has made as a mentor. “Chris consistently shows up for our kids week after week. He simply just sees a teenager needing someone who cares, and he can immediately connect with our kids. I use Chris as an example for new mentors I onboard, that it just takes someone to show up, because it shows you care.”

Another driving force that motivates Chris’ volunteerism is a belief that every child deserves to know that somebody cares about them. “I know these kids have had tough backgrounds. I’m sure they have people to care for them, but just making sure that they know one more person does is one of my goals.”

You can make a difference in the lives of the children and teens at UMFS. To learn more about mentoring and other volunteer opportunities, visit UMFS.org/volunteer.