Volunteer Spotlight: Belle Foley

We started this blog series for volunteer appreciation week in April, but we have so many wonderful volunteers to talk about it, that we decided to continue it through the year! 

Just a reminder, GiGi’s Playhouse Madison is 99% volunteer run – which means we wouldn’t be here without our volunteers. We had 309 unique volunteers last year and have consistently been in the top five Playhouses for volunteer hours. It’s pretty incredible to think back on all of the hours people have given to us – 5,698 hours in 2022 alone! 

These blogs will be posted in a question and answer format. 

Belle Foley

Why did you decide to volunteer with GiGi’s Playhouse? 

I started volunteering with GiGi’s in February of last year. My reason for getting involved was twofold. I wanted to expand on my experience and gain some hours as I was applying to graduate school and wanted to continue working with the population that we serve at GiGi’s. I had experience in high school working with kids who had various needs and quickly fell in love with those individuals. After my first session, I could tell that GiGi’s was a second home for many families – watching participants grow and develop makes it easy to stay involved. 

How long have you been a volunteer? 

I have been with GiGi’s since February of 2022. 

What programs, committees or events have you volunteered with? 

I started as a greeter when the Playhouse first opened for in-person programs after the pandemic, and have loved being a friendly face to participants. I was kind of a float and just did what needed to be done when I was there. I continued in this position through summer and in the fall I mostly volunteered at events. This semester (Spring), I am leading the GiGi’s Kitchen Kids program and I love it! 

What is your favorite way to volunteer with GiGi’s? 

This is a hard one! I think my favorite way to volunteer is to lead or co-lead a program because we get to watch participants grow over a period of time, and their progress is so encouraging. 

Can you share a favorite moment from your time volunteering? 

There are so many! I think my favorite moments have happened during our GiGi’s Kitchen Kids sessions; as the kiddos get more comfortable and confident in the kitchen and with their peers, watching them venture away from their parents during kitchen time has been really cool. We have one participant who comes to mind, right away – this has been a big goal for her and her family and she has really progressed these last couple of weeks. I’ve been able to foster trust with her and her parent enough that she will let me assist her, instead of her parent. 

What is the most impactful thing you have learned from your time at GiGi’s? 

The biggest thing has been that you can start with a lesson and a plan, but most of the time things will not go exactly as planned, and that’s okay. Sometimes I have an activity that I think they will love and they have zero interest in it, but instead prefer a different activity instead. Being flexible is the key to success. 

What advice would you give to someone that is new to volunteering or considering volunteering with GiGi’s Playhouse? 

Do it! It’s hard to leave GiGi’s in a bad mood – the staff is great, the volunteers are great and the participants are great! GiGi’s is a bucket-filler. Jump in – if you see someone who needs help or something that needs to be done, just do it. Engage and follow your gut, because that is when connection and community is created. 

__________

Thank you, Belle! 🧡

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