August’s Volunteer of the Month
This month’s Volunteer of the Month has been credited, by the nominator, with being the “the epitome of UWSWA’s slogan ‘Live United.’” Congratulations to Shelli Bell, our August Volunteer of the Month! Jessica James, Executive director of McKemie Place, nominated Shelli. McKemie place is the only overnight shelter for single, homeless women in all of Mobile, Washington and Baldwin Counties, and Jessica describes Shelli as “the most valuable volunteer in the history of McKeme Place.”
Jessica went on to describe why she felt Shelli deserved this recognition.
“From serving monthly meals to our guests (upwards of 70 meals!), to coordinating toilet paper and paper towel donations from Kimberly Clark (126 cases of toilet paper, 56 cases of paper towels!), and even securing a refrigerator for us when the shelter’s was no longer useful, Shelli goes above and beyond daily for the essential needs of McKemie Place. Recognizing her for all she does for McKemie place is long overdue.”
Thank you, Jessica for nominating Shelli!
We caught up with Shelli to learn more about her and her selfless volunteer service.
UWSWA: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Shelli: I grew up in Mobile. I am the youngest of 6 and the only girl. I have 3 children, 2 step children and 11 grandchildren. I am currently a Realtor at Roberts Brothers and have been for about 5 years now. I am also a Charter Member and Board Member with the Queens with Dreams (QWD). QWD is a philanthropy based group of women who give back to our community through the collection and distribution of in-kind donations, of which I am very proud to be a part. Last year I was honored to be chosen for their Angel of Service due to the number of service hours I put into the community.
UWSWA: What made you want to begin volunteering?
Shelli: In 1993-94, I had made some poor choices in my life, I was on drugs and I had alienated myself from my family. I had also lost custody of my children. There was one person in my life that I felt I could turn to…without her, I would have been homeless. I felt helpless and hopeless. She helped me get back on my feet. I got a job, I got clean and sober, and over time I got my kids back. I made connections with some very kind people like Catholic Social Services who fed us and Mobile Community Action who helped with our bills. A recovery program helped me get sober and rebuild relationships with my family. I always knew that if I ever got to a place that I could give back, I would. Going through these things in my life made me know how important giving was. So I began to give back as soon as I could.
UWSWA: What types of work have you been doing?
Shelli: I worked from 1998-2007 in the substance abuse field, (for non-profits and for profits) where I found a love for women who often get overlooked in society. I volunteered to cook for those in treatment programs who couldn’t go home on the weekends and take them to AA meetings or go to the store to pick up personal items for them. In 2011, after I started with Roberts Brothers, I was introduced to McKemie Place. I became a board member until one day there was an apparent need for a Volunteer Coordinator. So, I stepped down from the board to assume the VC position. The position was a 20 hour a week paid position but I found myself volunteering many more hours…collecting and distributing household goods to women in need, cooking meals, holding fundraisers, sitting with the ladies to find out about their individual needs (and helping them acquire those items) and counseling. I also am a “Big Sister” with Big Brothers Big Sisters in the public schools.
UWSWA: What do you enjoy about volunteering?
Shelli: Just simply, giving back. It was once me and you never know when it could be me again… or you, or your brother/sister, or your son/daughter.
UWSWA: Is there a moment that stands out in your mind about your volunteer experience, as interesting or noteworthy?
Shelli: There are so many. I love to be able to help women when they transition from McKemie to their own apartment or home. I collect things from wonderful people and then distribute them to the women when they finally get their own place. They’ll call me and say, “Ms Shelli, I’ve got my key!!!” and sometimes, that’s literally all they have. I’ve brought them a couch and a few towels or a bed and a coffee pot. Once I was able to outfit an entire apartment! The things vary, but the feeling of freedom is the same! This one time, a friend and I prayed for a mattress for one of our ladies that just received her “key”. We had just given our last donated mattress away the day before. I was disappointed to tell her that we didn’t have one for her. The day after we prayed, I received a phone call from a man that had 3,000 twin size mattresses to give away! No kidding! We were able to store 250 of those mattresses and bless many people in our community. God is good and faithful and works swiftly!
UWSWA: Why would you recommend volunteering to others?
There is no other feeling like helping those who can’t help you back…you never know when a simple gesture could change a person’s life! Even though I may never see all of the results of my giving, I know that lives are changed and that is all I need to know.
Thank you, Shelli for all of the tireless work you have done and continue to do in our community. You are truly an inspiration to us! If you were inspired by Shelli’s story and would like to find needs you can meet in the community, browse our unmet needs list on Volunteer Connect.
Contact Kristin Woods, Volunteer Coordinator, for more information on volunteering in your community.
251.433.3624 I firstname.lastname@example.org