Wally Hilke is our Volunteer of the Month for April! Wally has been an active volunteer for our Employment Services team, helping out our participants as a tutor and performing mock interviews for more than a year. We asked him a few questions about his experience with Inspiration Corporation.

How did you hear about Inspiration Corporation?

I first learned about Inspiration Corporation from my career advisor when I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. At the time, I was looking into Chicago nonprofits with a workforce development focus.

What is the most enjoyable part of volunteering for you?

I love sharing the sense of satisfaction participants have when they successfully apply to a job, write a great cover letter, or excel in a practice interview.

What aspect of volunteering are you most excited about? What is the most challenging?

I’m always excited to meet new people and learn about their goals, strengths, and interests. On the best days, I leave feeling that I’ve helped someone to get closer to their goals.

One of the hardest things is managing time effectively. When I come in on Saturdays we have two hours to accomplish everything, and once our time is up, we have to leave whether we’ve finished or not.


Wally and Abi, one of our Trainers, before a recent volunteer session.

Sometimes we don’t accomplish everything we set out to do, and technology (including frustrating online job application systems) can be a big part of this challenge. It helps when we take a few minutes at the beginning of a session to review the participant’s goals and lay out the necessary steps, but sometimes we still need to rush to get everything done.

What is your volunteer background?

I have taught creative writing to elementary school students, and also volunteered as a mentor for middle school students with sickle cell anemia. I recently received training to be a medical advocate for survivors of sexual assault and am about to start taking shifts as an on-call “first responder” advocate for these survivors.

Why do you volunteer?

Simply put, it’s the most engaging and satisfying thing I do every week. I really like working with the people in Inspiration Corporation’s program. It’s exciting to see what they accomplish when we work together.

Describe one of the most interesting experiences you’ve had as a volunteer.

It’s great to see the diverse skills and strengths of the people I work with. For example, I recently gave a practice interview to a participant who wanted to be a college counselor. At first, it was difficult for her to answer questions about why she would be good at the job. However, once we took time to brainstorm about her experiences, she came up with a number of strengths, including experience working in education and a passion for working one-on-one with students.

You never know what to expect when someone walks in – the people I work with have had a wide variety of experiences. It’s always interesting to work with participants to use their experiences to their advantage in a job search.

What are your hobbies, besides volunteering?

I like to play basketball, cook, and brew beer.

What have you learned from your volunteer experience?

I’m not always very talkative, and at first I worried that this would make it difficult to be an effective volunteer. What I’ve learned is that active listening skills – being able to really understand a person’s situation and goals and ask questions to learn more – are far more important. Usually, we accomplish more when the participant is doing most of the talking and leading the work.