October’s Volunteer of the Month

October’s Volunteer of the Month

Penelope House Family Violence Center nominated this month’s Volunteer of the Month in conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is also in October. Penelope House helps victims of intimate partner violence to gain social and economic independence through shelter, counseling, advocacy, and referral of community resources and agencies. The prevention of domestic violence through education and public awareness is their goal. The work of Penelope House could only be done with the help of dedicated volunteers such as this month’s honoree. Congratulations to Johnnette Quinn, United Way of Southwest Alabama’s October Volunteer of the Month.

Joan Duncan, Volunteer Coordinator for Penelope House, nominated Johnnette and had this to say about her:

“Johnnette has tirelessly worked for our organization for many years. She is devoted to our cause and works usually forty hours or more per week at our thrift store, Penelope’s Closet. The work she does isn’t glamorous by any means. Johnnette works in the back room at the thrift store, where her job is sorting through hundreds of bags of clothing and household donations. She then must organize and hang them as well as helping customers. Johnnette also spends her own money to buy beads and make jewelry for us to sell in the store and use as silent auction items in our fundraisers throughout the year. We appreciate Johnnette more than she will ever know. Without volunteers like Johnnette we wouldn’t be able to provide some of the important services that Penelope House offers. Her work has helped make our shelter the wonderful, safe place that it is today. “

We caught up with Johnnette to get to know her a little better and ask her a few questions about her volunteer work.

UWSWA: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Johnnette: I am a retired math teacher who taught at Alba Middle-High, B.C. Rain High, and Baker High. I taught for 34 years, but not all of that time was spent in Alabama. I also spent a few years teaching part time in USA’s math department. I loved teaching and it has been a wonderful thing to see young people develop into successful adults. I like to sew, crochet, make jewelry and do art work. Most of my sewing projects go to a nursing home and mission needs. The jewelry that I make is donated to Penelope’s Closet to be sold for the benefit of Penelope House. The art work is just for fun. My husband and I like to travel and have been fortunate enough to see much of Europe, Central America, the United States and Canada.

UWSWA: What made you want to begin volunteering?

Johnnette: The need existed for volunteers who could/would work with the children at Penelope House when the mothers were in meetings. I was certainly able to help in that capacity and entering retirement gave me unencumbered time. So, I began volunteering at the shelter on days or evenings when I was needed. When Penelope House wanted to start a thrift store I had the time and health to volunteer in a highly physical manner. I’ve been at Penelope’s Closet for 10 years.

UWSWA: What types of work have you been doing?

Johnnette: I greet donors at the back door, unload their donations, sort the donations and prepare them for the shelter or for sale. As I previously mentioned, while at home I make jewelry for sale in the store.

UWSWA: What do you enjoy about volunteering?

Johnnette: Meeting so many different people is a great deal of fun. We have the best donors in the world at Penelope’s Closet.

UWSWA: Is there a moment that stands out in your mind about your volunteer experience, as interesting or noteworthy?

Johnnette: Probably the sweetest thing is when a child comes (with a parent) and is donating their much loved toy so that another child can find happiness.

UWSWA: Why would you recommend volunteering to others?

Johnnette: Giving back to your community is important. So many charities or worthy causes don’t have the budget to hire all the help that is needed and if you have the health and time—give help where it is needed. Not everything in life can be purchased with a paycheck.

We want to give a heartfelt “thank you!” to Johnnette for her selfless service to the community. If you are interested in getting involved and helping a local agency achieve its mission, browse our list of volunteer opportunities HERE. Contact Kristin Woods for more information.

Kristin Woods I Volunteer Coordinator I United Way of Southwest Alabama I 251-433-3624 I kwoods@uwswa.org


If you know someone who is, or you suspect is, a victim of intimate partner violence, you can help:

Be alert to possible signs of domestic violence:

  • Changes in behavior and work performance
  • Lack of concentration
  • Increased or unexplained absences
  • Placing/receiving harassing phone calls
  • Bruises or injuries which are unexplained or come with explanation that do not add up

Believe them if someone confides in you that they are being abused.

Listen without judging.  Victims often believe their abuser’s negative messages and feel responsible, ashamed, and afraid they will be judged.

Tell them they don’t have to stay in the abusive situation and that help is available.  Give them Penelope House’s 24 hour crisis line (251) 342-8994 or (800) 650-6522.

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