Our volunteer of the month for November is Lynn Steiner! Lynn has been involved with the organization for the past 10 years, lending her experience and knowledge to our Employment Services program. We asked Lynn a few questions about her many years of experience at Inspiration Corporation.

How did you hear about Inspiration Corporation?
I actually became involved with The Employment Project in 2004. I had heard about it through a social work classmate who had interned there. I read up on the organization and thought it was doing valuable work, and I was looking for a volunteer position. A few years later, they merged with Inspiration Corporation and I came aboard. Prior to the merger, I had heard about the Inspiration Kitchens restaurant and had lunch once with my mom at the location on Sheridan.

What is the most enjoyable part of volunteering for you?
Definitely it’s having the opportunity to help others. I come from a social work background, so it means a lot to be able to help. It’s the best feeling after a two hour shift to have a participant say to me, “Thanks so much for your help — we got so much done.” To think that I play a part, however small, in helping someone get back into the workforce so that he or she can improve his or her life — is humbling and gratifying.

What aspect of volunteering are you most excited about? What is the most challenging?
Exciting: I think mock interviews are kind of fun — and eye opening. Trying to give participants gentle feedback so that they can bring their best self into a real interview is so important, so I take the interviews very seriously.
Most challenging: I think the most challenging part is when participants come in with non job-related goals. One time, a participant wanted me to help him post items to sell on eBay!

Why do you volunteer?
I find volunteering to be a two-way street — both I and the people I help benefit tremendously. I volunteer to make a difference, even on a small level. I volunteer to give something back, because I’ve been blessed with having what I need when so many other people haven’t. I volunteer because I have a little bit more extra time to give than I have extra money.

Describe one of the most interesting experiences you’ve had as a volunteer.
Sometimes Employment Services staff “double book” participants since they know that often participants who sign up do not show up. Well, one time two people were booked with me, and after having a dry spell for the last few times I had volunteered, this time I was excited that one person showed up. And then the second person showed up! I can’t remember now what assistance they needed, but I spent the time going back and forth between the two of them and trying to help them with whatever goals they had that day. It kept me on my toes, and at the end of two hours I was tired, but I also felt excited too.

What are your hobbies, besides volunteering?
Travel is a big interest for me. I just returned from three weeks in Scandinavia. Other places I’ve been in the last few years include Morocco, France, Amsterdam, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Hungary. I also spent a year in Australia. I love to read and am currently in three book groups. In warm weather I like to bike ride. I also enjoy doing puzzles and trying new things — whether it’s a trivia night, an international movie, dirty bingo, a new rooftop bar or speed dating. I’ll try almost anything once!

What have you learned from your volunteer experience?
Most definitely I have learned patience! I have learned to try and begin where the participant is, to find out what he or she needs, and to not be so quick to give my opinion or do something for a participant but rather to try to get that person to do it him- or herself. Typing is a good example: When I first started, and I was helping people with updating resumes, generally most of the participants had few, if any, typing skills. As they were revising their resumes, it would drive me crazy to sit there while they were typing so slowly and I would often ask them if I could take it over so that we could move along at a quicker pace. They would always agree! But I realized that I needed to be OK to sit with that slowness and let them accomplish the task themselves, even if that meant we couldn’t get through as much as I’d like. After all, this was always about what they needed from me. Not that I won’t type for them if they ask me to. 🙂