Collage of photos of volunteers that says "we love our volunteers"
Madonna Barnes

MaDonna Barnes

MaDonna is one of our loyal Adult Recreation volunteers. She’s been volunteering with the program for years, and is happy to be back now that volunteers are able to join us for in-person events again. She had been volunteering for another organization before she found Community Living, but said she just didn’t feel useful. She learned about our need for volunteers through a participant’s family and has been signing up to help with Adult Rec and fundraiser events ever since. “I’m glad I’m back. I really missed it,” she said.

Some of her favorite events to volunteer at are bowling and, “of course,” the dances, a favorite activity for many members. “Interacting with the members is by far my favorite part,” she said. “They’re just so fun and they’re genuine people.”

During the week, MaDonna works for an accounting firm that’s dedicated to giving back to the community, too. Her employer offers a matching program where she gets paid to volunteer. They also host an annual volunteer day for area nonprofits.

“This is very rewarding volunteer work,” she said. “The staff is always great and if you want something that touches your heart, this is it.”

LaTonya Thomas

LaTonya Thomas

LaTonya has always had a heart for serving others, but only recently connected with Community Living. She heard about a volunteer opportunity through her Vision St. Charles Leadership Facebook group and signed up to be a volunteer at this year’s Legacy Ball where she says she got to use her gift of hospitality to make sure guests were having a great time. “I like to meet people and talk to them and interact with them and make sure that their evening is made amazing,” she said.

She believes that time is the most valuable thing you can give to others. “Volunteering is far more valuable than money because you can’t get that time back,” she said. She also encourages people to volunteer because it’s a great way to share your talents and to just have fun. “If you can’t afford the ticket to attend the event, volunteering is the perfect way to see it,” she joked. Although Legacy Ball was her first volunteer experience with Community Living, she says she’ll definitely be back to help out at more events in the future.

LaTonya knows it’s the little things, like a smile or a cookie, that make a big difference. She operates Sweet Start Bakery and has started her own nonprofit called Sweet Start Ministries. She encourages people going through rough times by surprising them with cookies! “You don’t really ever think that a cookie can change a person’s day, but it really does, especially when it’s fresh-baked and it tastes really good.”

Connolly Family at Legacy Ball

The Connolly Family

Margaret Connolly started volunteering when her son Alex was still in school. He was in the SOAR program when they heard the organization was looking for volunteers. Over the years, she’s recruited Alex and his siblings to volunteer, too. They have been helping at Legacy Ball and the Swing Fore Kids Golf Tournament and plan to start helping with Tosstoberfest. “We’re a firm believer of what Community Living represents. They’ve been a great asset to Alex. They’ve helped us tremendously and it’s a great group of individuals.”

Margaret says one of the most rewarding parts about volunteering at the events is knowing she’s helping individuals in Community Living’s programs. “The organization is truly a wonderful organization that has their clients foremost in their mind,” she says. “Anything you do for them goes back to these adults, children and teens and it betters their lives.” She also loves that Alex gets to show people what he’s capable of when they volunteer together. “So many people recognize Alex now,” she says. “Of course, I’m biased but I think he’s a great ambassador.”

The toughest part about volunteering? Margaret would probably have to say it’s the pushups. She remembers working a course game at the Swing Fore Kids Golf Tournament one year. She offered to help a group of golfers by saying, “If you do 5 pushups, we can move you up.” One golfer responded with a challenge, offering to make an extra $20 donation if she did the pushups for him. “I didn’t even know if I could do it, but I couldn’t back down from a challenge!” she said. “I wont forget that one!”

Although his Teen Club days are long gone, Alex is still connected to Community Living. He now works with the Employment Services program at his job at Kokomo Joe’s. The family stays connected, too, saying the organization feels like a family. “There’s a lot of organizations out there and they’re all great,” Margaret said. “I found our place with Community Living.”