Lemay Housing Partnership (LHP) started in 1998 when a group from the Lemay community decided to work together to meet the health and safety needs of Lemay residents through home repairs. Initially it was a small operation with funds to do repairs on a few houses each year. However, even with limited resources, their vision was to holistically serve the community’s residents. They started using volunteers to do tasks that required little money but still blessed homeowners, like planting roses or clearing out brush. Now LHP has more substantial funding to do home repairs, improve accessibility, develop affordable homes, and ensure the safety of residents who would not be able to afford such improvements.
Even with the increased finances, volunteers remain a critical aspect of the Lemay Housing Partnership. Volunteers are recruited primarily from local churches. The youth and adults are instructed on the day’s project, introduced to the resident(s), and are able to help with both the physical improvements to the building as well as encourage the owners with their presence and willingness to serve. A task that may seem overwhelming to an older individual, such as cleaning out a basement, is easily tackled by an enthusiastic youth group.
The outpouring of service blesses and encourages both the tenants and the volunteers. Residents are grateful to have non-judgmental assistance and are encouraged by the readiness of volunteers to serve them. Volunteers are able to experience a sense of completion as they finish a project and bless someone else. The hope is that this experience gives volunteers the energy to continue volunteering, either with LHP or elsewhere as they see the tangible results of their work.
LHP has benefitted from the collaborative learning process at Send Me St. Louis’ quarterly Christian Volunteer Manager Network meetings where their volunteer manager has been able to connect with people who understand the challenges and joys of working with volunteers. Send Me St. Louis has also been able to resource LHP with various potential volunteer connections and partnerships.
LHP emphasizes the importance of focusing on the relationships built with the volunteers, not only the people that an organization is serving. It is difficult and takes a lot of time to build a volunteer program that is smooth and well-organized, but it is so important to show volunteers that you value their time and sacrifice. Having ongoing relationships with volunteers and their leaders means that LHP staff knows their history and can better work with them and bring them back to the program. LHP challenges, “Care about your volunteers as much as your clients.” They’re all people we’re called to walk alongside.