Monday, May 7, 2012

Volunteers Phyllis and Bob Burger

Maintaining a shelter is not an easy job. It takes a team of dedicated individuals. YWCA’s SafeChoice Domestic Violence Shelter has 10 rooms, private and shared bathrooms, a shared kitchen, pantry, donation closet, laundry facilities and shared spaces for children, youth and adults. With an average of 25 residents living in the shelter daily, you can only imagine the degree of regular service and maintenance that’s needed to sustain a well-functioning operation.

Debbi Cawthon, Director of Shelter Services leads the charge with the staff support of Beth Landry, Shelter Facilities Specialist and Melissa Heiskari, Facilities Coordinator. Because the responsibilities these individuals have reach far beyond building and inventory maintenance, they rely on the dedicated service of volunteers to help fill the gap.
Phyllis Burger

Phyllis and Bob Burger have been filling that gap since 2007. In the last 5 years, Phyllis has found a perfect fit at the shelter. “I don’t mind doing odd jobs that no one else wants to do,” Phyllis said. She spends 10-20 hours a week there, where most of her work is focused on organizing the constant stream of donations received. Yet, her commitment doesn’t stop there. When Phyllis isn’t sorting diapers and blankets, she’s painting, doing laundry, or organizing the pantry. Occasionally she’ll discover a broken chair, ruffled blinds or a faulty door knob. Most businesses would trash the item and buy a new one, but for the shelter this is not always the best option. That’s when Phyllis calls on Bob. As Bob sees it, “She’s always finding volunteer types of jobs to do, and I’m the tag-a-long.”

Bob enjoys fixing things and joins Phyllis from time to time for small projects. Most recently, the couple worked together on some projects in the building. Now, they’re looking forward to working together on painting the door frames, the elevator and maybe even some of the rooms. The work of these two is especially meaningful to shelter staff. “Phyllis and Bob seem to complement each other, and they’re part of the shelter family. Like many non-profits, we’ve had some struggles, and these two consistently step up and support the program,” said Landry.

Besides the work they do at the shelter, Phyllis and Bob are known throughout the community as committed volunteers. They’re both involved in FISH of Vancouver and their local church. Phyllis also volunteers for RSVP, SHIBA, Volunteer Connections and the Vancouver Food Bank. With so much experience volunteering, YWCA Clark County has utilized Phyllis’ expertise far beyond her shelter work. Stephanie Barr, Director of Volunteer Development has recently worked with her on recruitment and training efforts, “She’s willing to help in any way she can and always has a great attitude. She sees a need and offers to help. It’s wonderful!”

It seems the feeling is mutual. Phyllis says the work YWCA does is amazing and she’s especially fond of the free training sessions that YWCA offers to staff and volunteers. “I learn so much. It’s like taking a college course, and I recommend them to anyone and everyone,” said Phyllis. She especially enjoys learning about equality efforts and gaining insight on domestic violence and sex trafficking issues. “I think it’s one of the strengths of the Y that they do have good training sessions, and they do have a lot of outside people come in to lead the training.”

YWCA Clark County is grateful for the time and talents of this thoughtful and committed couple.  Their service goes above and beyond all expectations and this dedication is recognized by so many in our community. In March of this year, Phyllis received a letter of recognition on behalf of Governor Christine Gregoire and the Washington Commission for National and Community Service, congratulating her on her outstanding volunteer efforts in the community. She was invited to receive an award at the Executive Mansion in Olympia and to attend a public recognition Salute to Volunteers at a Mariners pre-game event. We congratulate Phyllis for her well-deserved award and also extend congratulations to her husband Bob, who has also done so much to support this organization, and our community.

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