In the recent volunteer newsletter the volunteer spotlight featured a group of college students that have gone above and beyond for our local Playhouse over the past year or so. This is the same group of students that planned the 2018 World Down Syndrome Day celebration. We asked them to answer a few questions about their experience as volunteers so we could share it with you.
How has volunteering impacted your life (personally or professionally)?
Mara: When I first started volunteering at GiGi’s, I knew that I would be doing things for other people, but I had no idea how much GiGi’s would do for me. I have made relationships that are simply amazing. I know that no matter how bad my day or week has been, the minute I walk through the doors the love and acceptance that is felt is beyond bel
ief, and I know I will always leave with a smile on my face. I feel like I have found my place at GiGi’s and that truly is an amazing feeling.
Emily: GiGi’s has introduced me to so many new friends! I’ve had a blast getting to know the friends at GiGi’s playhouse in the Quad Cities. This has impacted my professional life because every Wednesday I have nursing clinicals at Genesis East, I run into one of the friends who works in the cafeteria. It’s such a blessing to run into her every week and it brings me something to look forward to when I start my day. The friends you make at GiGi’s are your friends both inside and outside of the playhouse!
Kayla: Volunteering has reminded me of what is important in life – being kind, generous, accepting, seeing no differences, having someone’s back, and challenging yourself. I am reminded every day of how important these values are. I have a new look on life and how I want to make a difference in the world from my volunteering at GiGi’s.
Kristin: Volunteering has impacted my life by giving me the opportunity to take a break from school and making a difference in someone else’s life. It’s being a part of something bigger than yourself.
Elli: Working with GiGi’s has allowed me to build and strengthen relationships. I’ve been able to volunteer alongside my housemates which has given us something to do to grow closer while also helping others.
Bizzie: I have loved making friends with everyone at GiGi’s and am so excited to continue this work as an OT.
What is the best part about being at GiGi’s?
Mara: The best part about being at GiGi’s is the people you get to spend your time with. Honestly, some of the most amazing people you will ever meet you will find at GiGi’s Playhouse. Everyone comes from a different background, and yet there is such a sense of community when we’re all together and I think that is simply amazing.
Emily: The best part about being at GiGi’s is the friends you meet and continue to get to know every time you come back
Kayla: Everyone is so nice and welcoming. There are so many amazing people throughout the organization including fellow volunteers who share the same interests and have such big hearts. We all want to make a difference in people’s lives for the better and share that happiness with as many people we can!
Kristin: The best part of being at GiGi’s is spending time with everyone there! You go in not being sure of what to expect and you walk with a group of people you want to spend more time with!
Elli: The positive energy and inclusive atmosphere make it easy to get involved and feel right at home. I always look forward to spending time at GiGi’s!
Bizzie: I love the friendly faces and excitement about life!
What do you want the community to know about GiGi’s/your friends at GiGi’s?
Mara: There are so many opportunities for people to get involved with GiGi’s Playhouse. There is something for everyone! The hardest part about getting involved is walking through the doors the first time! My friends at GiGi’s are some of the funniest, and nicest people you will ever meet. I remember when I walked in on my first day of volunteering and I was convinced that nobody was going to like me or talk to me. I’m so glad I was wrong! Instead, I left that Fantastic Friends with hugs from everyone and some new best friends! It doesn’t matter who you are, once you walk through those doors you will be loved and accepted by everyone!
Emily: People shouldn’t be afraid to try something they don’t know about. GiGi’s is very fun and has challenged all of my expectations about a community I knew nothing about before volunteering.
Kayla: I want the community to know that GiGi’s is an amazing organization with the most amazing people. Everyone at GiGi’s have big hearts and open arms. More people should volunteer because this organization has positively impacted my life and I know there are many others in the community that will experience the same things I have.
Kristin: I want the community to know that GiGi’s is a family. Even though I am not able to volunteer that often with school and extracurricular activities I know that I have a place at GiGi’s when I have the availability to volunteer.
Elli: There are so many different programs and services that GiGi’s provides. I really hope that there will eventually be a location close to home so I can get others involved and show them what a great organization GiGi’s is.
Bizzie: GiGi’s is an incredible place for people with downs syndrome and their families to build community and celebrate life. It is such an honor to be a part of this journey.
What keeps you coming back for more?
Mara: The friendships that I have made keep me coming back! I love hearing updates on everyone’s lives, whether it’s a new Best of All moment, a new job, or a movie they went to the night before. Also, every time I’m at the Playhouse Jenn seems to come up with a new idea or project that always seems like a good idea to help tackle, so I keep coming back!
Emily: The people are the reason I keep coming back! The friends and volunteers at GiGi’s are all so kind and genuine, its refreshing.
Kayla: The smiling faces from all my friends at GiGi’s knowing that I am making a difference in others’ lives and the amazing feeling I get when I volunteer at GiGi’s!
Kristin: What keeps me coming back for more is the people that I have met and the amazing experiences I have had so far with GiGi’s!
Elli: The instant sense of community!
Bizzie: The smiling faces and fun memories.