Volunteer Group of the Year: Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Our Home Sweet Home Gala 2 on Thursday, September 27 is a night of celebrations, congratulations, donations and standing ovations!

We’re proud to recognize Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship as our Volunteer Group of the Year. Thank you to both Rick Groff and Shari Tisch for filling me in on the longterm relationship that BUU has had with Interfaith.

From the start, volunteers from the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (BUUF) were attracted to Interfaith Sanctuary’s mission of providing compassionate service to the homeless of Boise regardless of race, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender, age, or state of impairment (providing guests can follow basic shelter rules). Our engagement with the shelter began with the inception of Interfaith Sanctuary during a cold November in 2005. Steve Scanlin was there and opened the shelter on the first shift of the first evening that it was opened. Jeanette Ross assisted moving the shelter from one location to another and was involved with the shelter in various ways that first season. She also started an evening educational program for the children staying at the shelter.

In the second season of operation, Rick Groff joined Jeanette in volunteering. Jeanette continued her independent support during the second season of operation of the shelter and then joined the BUUF shelter team in the third year/season of operation. Rick was hugely impressed with a Boise State social work professor who managed the shelter each Sunday evening and made it his commitment to volunteer at the front desk each Sunday evening. He continued this Sunday evening commitment throughout the second year of operation.

Sometime in the late fall or early winter of that season, Rick recruited two more volunteers with a BUUF connection and the BUUF Sunday evening shelter team was born and has continued to the present. In October of 2007, the shelter moved to its current location and began year-around operation. A larger group of BUUF volunteers was recruited and rotate Sunday evening shifts at the shelter. The team often handled the duties of intake and checking in guests especially in the early years.  In the beginning, to accommodate the needs of the shelter, one of the team members would volunteer from about 5:30 PM until midnight and the other volunteer stayed until 10:00 PM.

The tasks performed by the BUUF volunteers has become more varied as Interfaith Sanctuary broadened its mission and added staff in the last few years. Rick estimates that the BUUF shelter team has contributed 5,300 volunteer-hours or 0.6 of a year to the shelter.

A few years after the BUUF shelter team began operation, BUUF began its support of social justice organizations through a monthly donation to a particular cause called the social justice plate partner. No continuous record is available regarding BUUF’s financial contributions, however, Rick guesses that Interfaith Sanctuary has been the church’s plate partner 6 to 8 times and estimates the total donated at somewhere between $8,000 to $10,000. Individual BUUF members have also made significant financial contributions.

As the BUUF team matured, it started doing basic orientation and training for potential volunteers.  This created an awareness of the commitment, the challenges associated with volunteering at the shelter, some understanding of the volunteer guidelines, and training in the role they would perform at the shelter. Some volunteers relocate or change interest with time.  Therefore, a regular recruitment effort at BUUF has been required to maintain the desirable number of people on the team.  These recruitments, along with the times that Interfaith Sanctuary has been the congregational social justice plate partner, have served to educate and re-educate the congregation about Interfaith Sanctuary and the congregation’s continuing support for it.

The Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and its Sanctuary team are humbled and pleased to be recognized for their service to Interfaith Sanctuary. However, while the recognition is pleasing, we volunteer at the shelter because it is very important and the doing brings us joy and gratitude.

Thank you to all the amazing volunteers from the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. We appreciate you so very much.

Join us in recognizing all our award recipients on September 27 by getting your tickets here.