Bob and Melaine Stephens have been volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul Center for over 8 years. Bob, a retired lawyer, and Melaine, a retired teacher, said they first found out about MSV through a staff member at The Village Chicago, where they are members.
The Village Chicago is a community of 50+ adults that supports people in their efforts to stay in their homes and communities as they age. “We were looking for a place where we could volunteer, and someone at The Village suggested St. Vincent de Paul Center,” said Melaine. “We had a chance to meet some of the staff members, had an orientation, and have been here ever since.” The couple volunteers in classrooms where they do anything the teachers need; from setting up for lunch to helping the children on class projects.
For Bob and Melaine, part of what keeps them volunteering at Marillac St. Vincent is the opportunity to work with young children. Once they retired and their grandchildren had grown, they were looking for ways to be more involved with youth and give back to their community.
Early Childhood Program volunteers, Melaine and Bob Stephens. “We’re long-time volunteers for a number of organizations, it’s just part of our life.” - Melaine.
When asked about why she enjoys volunteering, Melaine said, “It’s very satisfying. It gives you purpose, like you’ve made a contribution. And you get to meet great people. Dedicated and hardworking people.” said Melaine. Bob chimed in, “We volunteer to make ourselves useful, and it’s also pretty fun!”
Another reason they have enjoyed their time here is seeing the children learn and grow year after year and the bigger picture of what it means to have a place like MSV for people who need it. “There was this one boy I remember who couldn’t really catch a ball, so I was working with him. He got better and better. And the last year before he graduated from St. Vincent [pre-kindergarten], he could throw a perfect spiral with a football. He was an all-around good kid.” Bob said.
They both recall so many instances where they helped or witnessed a child learn new skills. Melaine added, “Dropping their kids off here allows the parents to go to work. And there are so many programs for parents too that we have seen around the center. There’s so much encouragement, it’s just such a positive place.”
Besides the children, Bob and Melaine spend most of their time with teachers. “The teachers in my class, Ms. Brittney and Ms. Tiffany, are just outstanding. The kids really listen to them. You really get to see the development of these children.” Melaine said. “There are a lot of excellent teachers here, Ms. Shannon and Ms. Jackie are in my room.” Bob told us.
As a former teacher herself, Melaine enjoys working in education again, even as a volunteer. “But I never taught little kids.” She said, “It shows how important these early childhood teachers are, and that they are not truly appreciated.”
Marillac St. Vincent relies on volunteers like Bob and Melaine who choose to spend their time working with the Early Childhood Education program and use their passion to encourage others to volunteer and donate too. Thank you, Bob and Melaine, hope to see you around the center!
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