- Posted by Sarah Swiston
- On July 24, 2019
- Chicago suburbs, Domestic Violence, DV agency, inspiration, National Volunteer Month, non-profit, northwest chicago, Resale, Resale Stores, Schaumburg, Thrift, Volunteer, Volunteer of the Year, WINGS, WINGS Program
This year, 93-year-old Helen Jerusis was named the Village of Schaumburg’s Adult Volunteer of the Year. Not only is Helen an enthusiastic and reliable volunteer, but she recruits others to join her efforts at WINGS Schaumburg Resale Store and at the agency’s Logistics Center.
Below is what her nominator, fellow volunteer Emily Ledbetter, wrote about her service to WINGS mission to provide housing, integrated services, education, and advocacy to end domestic violence.
At 93, Helen Jerusis is what you might call a trendsetter.
An outgoing self-starter, Helen channels the trademark friendliness of Schaumburg’s Friendship Village into helping another community in urgent need of friendship — people escaping domestic violence. She is the oldest of a caravan of regular volunteers from Friendship Village who, thanks to Helen’s efforts, now volunteer with the WINGS Resale Store of Schaumburg, both in the shop and at the logistics center.
When Helen moved into Friendship Village ten years ago, she immediately sought opportunities to volunteer.
“I retired so that I would have time to give back,” Helen explains. She had previously worked with other charities which help people leaving domestic abuse and wanted to continue helping battered women and children find a new start. WINGS Schaumburg Resale Store was near to Friendship Village, so Helen began pricing resale items and helping to get merchandise out on the floor.
However Helen wasn’t satisfied to serve alone.
Displaying her signature pluck, Helen placed an ad in the Friendship Village paper and quickly recruited many other residents to volunteer with her. Helen drives, and a Friendship Village bus transports other volunteers to and from the resale shop.
She remarks that it can be difficult to draw residents out, as many see retirement as a time to rest or disengage. For herself, Helen “can’t stand not doing anything,” and is eager to encourage residents that they can get more actively involved than they may think possible.
“You are never too old to volunteer. You can still find some place to give your time and efforts… If you can’t stand, we’ll get you a chair… It’s good for your mental attitude to see that you can accomplish something like this.”
Surprised by Fun
What has most surprised Helen about WINGS is how much fun she and the other volunteers have. Although domestic abuse, itself, is a tragic and heavy subject, WINGS as a community is driven by hope and joy.
“God has been good to me, and this was my payback,” Helen describes, explaining that she initially thought she would be sacrificing her energy to a solemn but worthwhile cause.
Now, Helen finds that she can’t wait to go to the resale shop. “I have made friends there. Even the customers are easy to work with… When I know I’m going to WINGS, it’s no effort for me to get up and get going in the morning.”
Too often, we can allow a new season to isolate us.
Even as brave women and men leave behind homes of violence, it is tempting to trade the loneliness of abuse for a lonely independence. Similarly, new seasons of retirement or aging can shift one’s sense of autonomy, can be uncomfortable or embarrassing, and can push people to keep to themselves.
Helen’s volunteer efforts so beautifully exemplify the importance of community, especially in moments of transition.
- Her boldness to organize a new activity has expanded the impact Friendship Village is having in Schaumburg.
- Her enthusiasm to forge new friendships has grown into a circle of passionate workers serving together.
- Her zeal to find needs and go meet them has bolstered WINGS staff and helped sustained the women and children that they serve.
Helen’s social leadership reminds us to keep building new beginnings at every age, because our new beginnings can help build someone else’s.
Are you interested in joining WINGS community of volunteers?