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This Volunteer Appreciation Week, we sat down with longtime Buddy volunteer Emily. Emily started volunteering with Kate’s Club 10 years ago, and she reflected on the experiences she’s had as the organization has grown. Thank you for your service, Emily!
How long have you been volunteering at Georgia nonprofit Kate’s Club?
I’ve been volunteering at Kate’s Club for TEN years now. I’ll never forget the conversation I had with a coworker that started everything in motion. I will be forever grateful that she introduced to me to KC. It has been life-changing for me!
How did it feel when you first started volunteering at Kate’s Club?
I do remember how it felt, like an emotional rollercoaster. As nervous as I was, I knew I was in the right place, like I had truly found a new home, an extended family. I’ll never forget my orientation, the first time I observed, and my first day volunteering. I’ll especially never forget witnessing my first Welcome Circle. For almost 30 years, I had struggled with telling people about the loss of my mother and sister, which I experienced as a teenager. Here was this group of kids, aged 5-18 years, introducing themselves to a large group of people, saying their name and who died in their life. I knew I had a lot to learn about my own grief journey as well.
What has changed since you started volunteering at Kate’s Club?
So much has changed (new clubhouse, new staff, kids aging through while new ones join). Yet, at the core of it all, nothing has changed. We are providing a safe space where kids are empowered to honor their person who died and share their grief story. They are not alone in their grief.
Why do you volunteer at Kate’s Club?
For me, it has always been pretty simple. My sister Beth died suddenly at the age of 15 when I was 13. Less than three years later, my mom Judith died from a long-term illness at the age of 49 when I had just turned 16. I know what it is like to grieve without the support of an organization like Kate’s Club. I want to make sure that I do what I can to help as many kids that I can and to help Kate’s Club maintain their resources as well. I know what it’s like to sit in a classroom, with a group of friends, an after-school job…and you’re the only one that has experienced the death of a family member. It is such an isolating feeling. At Kate’s Club, you’re never the only one, you’re never alone.
What do you like about volunteering at Kate’s Club?
It is not an overstatement to say that my experience with Kate’s Club has truly been life-changing. I was introduced to KC at a time in my life when I really needed it most. The sense of purpose I have gained helping these kids fills me with such gratitude. By helping the kids, I have also been able to grow in my grief journey. I no longer struggle when someone asks me how many siblings I have, where my parents live. These seem like such benign questions you ask anyone. To someone who has experienced loss, they can be traumatizing, confounding, a real struggle. I’ve learned that it’s okay to share your grief story, there is no shame in it whatsoever. And, lastly, don’t get me started on the people I have met in the last decade. Truly, some of the best humans one can only be so lucky to cross paths with. I’ve made lifelong friends that I cherish.
Why should people volunteer at Kate’s Club?
If someone is searching for connection or purpose, seek no further. Kate’s Club staff is a group of amazing people that will welcome you with open arms. The volunteers, the Buddies, are there to help you anytime you need it. And the kiddos will astonish you with their bravery in sharing their grief journey with you.
Do you want to shout out any other Kate’s Club volunteers?
There are too many to list, and they know who they are. I love and appreciate them with my entire heart and every fiber of my being. They make me want to be a better Buddy, a better friend, a better person. They are the bestest of the best!
If you had to explain Kate’s Club to someone who’s never heard of it, what would you say?
Kate’s Club is an amazing nonprofit organization based out of Atlanta, providing year-round support for kids aged 5-18 who have experienced the death of a sibling, parent, or primary caregiver. They offer monthly clubhouse programs, quarterly outings, yearly family programs that are loss-specific, and an annual weekend camp at Camp Twin Lakes called Camp Good Mourning. If you, or someone you know, has a child that has experienced this type of loss, I can’t recommend Kate’s Club enough.
If you could describe Kate’s Club in one word, what would it be?
My initial thought always goes to community. Kids walk in and they can feel that they are part of this welcoming community, a place where they are not alone. However, one of the kids at the end of camp one year said Kate’s Club was a “respite” for her. I was so moved by that.
What are you looking forward to in KC’s next 20 years?
There is no limit to the potential for outreach that Kate’s Club has. Broadening their scope to young adults is such a great initiative, as well as extending the geographic reach. Wherever KC goes, I follow. I hope to always be a part of it.
Kate’s Club is a Georgia nonprofit organization. For more information about volunteering in Atlanta, GA, Albany, GA, Brunswick, GA and Newnan, GA, please visit katesclub.org/volunteer.
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