Monday, April 8, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Lasallian Volunteer: Angela Toomer


Angela Toomer is currently serving her 2nd year as Lasallian Volunteer at Tides Family Services in Pawtucket, RI. A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Angela pursued a degree in English at Christian Brothers University.




Pawtucket, RI
When I first moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island to work as a caseworker at Tides Family Services, I thought I’d never put down my GPS. My job requires me to visit clients’ families in their homes, which means navigate the winding, crooked one-ways of Pawtucket, Central Falls, and East Providence, three tiny New England towns. These towns used to be vibrant, prosperous contributors to the textile industry during the Industrial Revolution, but the cities fell on hard times when the industry moved to the South, where prices were cheaper. Poverty has put palpable stress on most of my families, and as a caseworker, I attempt to lift at least a small part of the burden.

The agency I work with, Tides, works to preserve families, which means keeping kids out of group homes and training schools (aka juvenile correction facilities). After seven months of working at Tides, one of my proudest accomplishments is finally putting down the GPS and feeling at home in a place where I speak half as fast as its residents. And, of course, the accumulation of tiny moments: improbable peace in the middle of chaos, laughter in struggle, and honesty and trust in my co-workers when we realize we all go through our days together.

On a home visit with Woiwor, one of my clients.
My day begins with rundown, which is when the members of my three-person team and my supervisor meet to update each other on the previous night and morning. Was the client in school? Were there any crises? How are X client and mom getting along? Rundown is a good time to celebrate our clients’ progress, or brainstorm ways to help our families. Following rundown, I may go to a school meeting or truancy court to advocate for a client. At Tides, no two days are identical, and we respond to clients’ needs as they come up. Caseworkers also take clients out in the community for recreational activities.

My community cleaning up after Blizzard Nemo
The meat of my day is visiting my clients’ homes. On any given day, I’ll visit clients and their families in eight to twelve homes in three different towns. Sometimes, a client or parent shares good news; other times, they need to vent about something that happened that day. Before I walk into a home, especially if the family and client are high-risk, I take a moment in my car to close my eyes and get some good vibes going. A trick I stole from a Christian Brother: using the Lasallian prayer, “Let us remember we are in the holy presence of God” before going inside so I can collect myself and walk in with a fresh outlook.

After a few hours of home visits, I head home to my community for dinner with the on-call phone in hand. Trackers are on-call to clients and families 24-7 for crises. So, unless my night involves picking up the on-call phone and possibly going to a client’s home to de-escalate a crisis, my workday is over. Dinner and prayer wraps up my day, and maybe an episode of Glee or a batch of chocolate chip cookies with my community.

The Lasallian Volunteers program of the De La Salle Christian Brothers provides dedicated, well-trained Volunteers for one or more years of service to schools and agencies of the Brothers whose Mission is to serve the poor. Acting out of faith, rooted in the Gospel, and sharing community with the Brothers and other Lasallians, the Volunteers empower the poor by personalized service primarily through education. To learn more about their program, click here.