“Outstanding.”

How would you define outstanding?

The School on Wheels of Massachusetts (SOWMA) defines outstanding as JF&CS CHAI Works South volunteers!

Barbara Fox, program assistant for SOWMA, contacted me earlier in May to eagerly announce that they had chosen CHAI Works South participants as their outstanding volunteers of the year. She proudly told me that it was a unanimous decision by everyone in the organization. She cried on the phone as she shared how the participants had touched everyone in the office. “They are so excited to be here. They work so very hard and they truly inspire us all.”

CHAI Works South volunteers go to SOWMA to help assemble backpacks for homeless children. CHAI Works South participants love to volunteer at SOWMA and they are excited and proud to greet me back at the office after their volunteer time. “Heidi, guess how many backpacks we filled today? Fifty! Yes, Heidi, we put together 50 backpacks! Can you believe it, Heidi?”

SOWMA recently had an awards dinner where they honored our volunteers. When Barbara Fox took to the podium to announce our award, she was already crying. So was I. I sat at the table with one of our volunteers and her parents as I listened humbly to Barbara talk about what an impact our group has had on their organization.

“Some people come just to fill a requirement for volunteer hours. CHAI Works South volunteers come in eager to work, eager to help with any task given. This group inspires me every time I watch them. Their enthusiasm, how genuine they are….” She paused as she cried audibly, so moved by our group. I was moved as well. I walked up to the podium with one of our participants to receive the award, Barbara out of focus because of my happy tears.

Heidi IslerHeidi joined the Pathways for Employment team in August 2015 and became the Program Manager of CHAI Works South in July 2016. She graduated from Eastern Nazarene College in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in social work. She has worked with children, teens, adults, and seniors with mental illness at Riverside Community Care, Community Counseling of Bristol County, and DOVE Battered Women’s Shelter. She also has extensive experience working with people with substance abuse issues. Heidi has also started programs in middle and high schools to help build better body awareness and positive body image. She is a Reiki master and has taught yoga and wellness programs for more than 25 years in schools, private organizations, and companies. In her spare time she loves cooking, hiking, and biking.

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