Volunteer Experience: St. John’s Shelter for Women and Children

Tiffany Cheung DavisZurich North America

“Are you going to have a kids’ snack too?” This very simple question, asked by one of the most forthright, genuine and flat out adorable 4-year olds residing at the St. John’s Shelter for Women and Children, sticks in my head constantly. I ask myself, “When was the last I time I heard anything so gracious?”

With the help of United Way California Capital Region, the department I work with at Zurich North America started a drive for St. John’s late last year. Since many of my co-workers were not able to give much of their time “off the clock,” we held various lunch dates. During each date, we spent our lunch time organizing the huge amount of donations into categories, such as women’s career clothes, children’s toys, canned goods, household items and baby supplies.
One week before our drop off date, we wrangled up some lunch, gathered in the break room and made no-sew pillows for the new children entering the shelter to have something to cuddle with. The time flew by, with plenty of laughter, good stories and an overall feeling that we were collectively helping our community.

The drop-off day came quickly and an overwhelming feeling of, “Could we have done more?” worried us, but we promised ourselves that this would not be our last drive. We got ourselves organized, loaded our cars and headed to St. John’s where we received a warm welcome and enormous sense of gratitude. Our site visit began with a wonderful tour of the facility, led by one of their extremely well versed and confidant residents that very few public speakers could surpass. 

We then headed to the playground. Just as we entered the beautiful sound of children playing, there was an announcement that it was snack time.  As I smiled, a youngster asked me, “Are you going to have a kids’ snack too?” I was amazed and at a loss for words. As I thought, “Of course, who wouldn’t want a kids’ snack,” I was reminded of an important lesson…

This entire time, I thought I was there to help and in fact, it was that child’s innocence, graciousness and willingness to share that made me realize, he helped me! Paying attention to the small things and learning to share those simple pleasures in life are what make us fulfilled.

I can only imagine that this young boy will become a philanthropist, teacher or community outreach activist. And I can only hope that I can touch our community as much as he’s touched, enriched, taught and fulfilled my heart.

Tiffany Cheung Davis loves to create, whether it be process improvements at her job with Zurich North America, a new recipe in the kitchen, getting dirty in the garden or organizing a volunteer event with UWCCR.  Be careful what you ask for, she might just do it.