National Volunteer Appreciation Week: Chicktime Volunteers Empower Girls at the Ozanam Campus to Discover Their Passion

National Volunteer Appreciation Week: Chicktime Volunteers Empower Girls at the Ozanam Campus to Discover Their Passion

The sun is shining, and spirits are high as the Chicktime volunteers gather at the Ozanam Campus to teach the girls in residential treatment about planting succulents. This month’s activity is led by Maria Rodriguez, one of the group’s co-leaders, and is focused on teaching the girls the art of planting and caring for plants.

“Maria loves to garden and grow flowers,” said Sheryl O’Keefe, managing leader of the Chicktime Kansas City Chapter. “She’s also going to have them decorate the outside of the flower pots.”

For nearly a decade, Chicktime’s Kansas City chapter has been volunteering at Cornerstones of Care, their chosen charity. The local chapter is part of a network of 33 Chicktime chapters across the United States, united by a mission to stop the cycle of abuse by providing love and empowerment to girls who have experienced abuse or neglect, helping them find purpose in life.

Every month, a different volunteer – also called mentors – leads a workshop or activity based on a passion or interest that is important to them. Activities have included crafting macrame wall hangings, baking and decorating cupcakes, and creative writing.

By empowering the mentors to share their gifts with the girls, the hope is that the girls will look inside and identify their own.

Last year, Sheryl led a workshop on camping, one of her favorite summertime activities.

“It was so interesting to see the girls build a fire,” said Sheryl. “They had to learn what kind of sticks to pick up and how to light it. Some of them had some experience and they were really good about sharing it with the other girls.”

In December, the mentors helped the girls write cards for the elderly residents at Madison Senior Living, a nearby nursing home.

“Some of them wanted to move on to the next activity because we had other things planned,” said Sheryl. “For a couple of the girls, it really resonated with them. They would say, ‘Oh, my grandma is in the nursing home,’ and took time to write some really nice messages. I think that was impactful for them because they were giving back to others.”

While certain workshops prioritize education and developing a passion, others focus on building connections among the girls, having fun, and relieving stress.

In December 2022, Jessica Schlorff, another of the group’s co-leaders, led an activity that featured diamond painting ornaments and decorating gingerbread houses.

“Some of those activities, like tying blankets, can become a mind-numbing activity that gives us the chance to open things up and ask questions,” said Jessica. “This gives the girls the opportunity to just talk and vent and have someone listen.”

Often, the leaders organize activities to allow for one-on-one connections with the girls. This format relies on a regular group of female volunteers who connect with the mission of Chicktime and are willing to lend their support.

Jessica, Sheryl, and other Chicktime volunteers are also motivated by a deep connection to their Christian faith and feel called to be a positive influence in these girls’ lives.

“I was very fortunate to grow up in a pretty stable home,” said Jessica. “I can’t even imagine at such a young age having to deal with these very adult things. That’s what draws me in – to be there, be positive, and provide some stability every month.”

Because of Chicktime’s dedication, the third Saturday of the month holds special significance for the girls at the Ozanam Campus. It’s a heartwarming sight as the girls greet their mentors with warm smiles and an occasional hug or high-five, eagerly anticipating the day’s activity.

“I hope they know how much we care and that they know that someone is there for them and cares enough to come back each time,” said Sheryl. “It would be great if they take something away from the activity that they can use in the future, but really, I just hope that they enjoy the time and know that we love them.”

Check out our photo gallery of Chicktime during National Volunteer Appreciation Week 2024! Sign up for our Volunteer e-Newsletter to receive news and upcoming volunteer opportunities with Cornerstones of Care.