Raphael House began as a volunteer run organization in 1971. Since then, volunteers have continued to be the heart of our organization, lending their time, creativity, and expertise in many different ways.
Laura has been volunteering at Raphael House since 1996. For much of that time, she has been volunteering as a tutor in our K-5 Tutoring Club. Because many of the kids who participate in Tutoring Club return every school year, Laura has provided unparalleled consistency for so many students! She also has participated in our holiday Adopt-A-Family program and has helped with shelter renovation projects.
With the support of volunteers like Laura, Raphael House is able to offer extensive academic tutoring, enrichment activities, scholarships for extracurricular pursuits, and mentoring throughout the school year for both the children and teens in our Residential Shelter and after-care Bridge Program. On average, 90% of the children served in our Academic Enrichment Programs show improved academic performance.
We asked Laura to tell us about her volunteer experience at Raphael House. Here’s what she shared.
Tell us about yourself!
I live and work in San Francisco and describe myself as a world traveler, reader, runner, hiker, art lover, aspiring humanitarian. I moved here 25 years ago and have my own art consulting business: Laura Grigsby Art Consulting, Inc.
What inspired you to start volunteering at Raphael House?
The short answer is that I wanted my life to be about more than work. Volunteering has been part of my life since I was a child — mostly soup kitchens and building projects. When I was thinking about what I wanted to do back in 1996, I thought that maybe I could make the most difference on an individual level and especially with kids.
Tell us about a time that was meaningful to you as a volunteer at Raphael House?
Seeing the children’s accomplishments from one year to the next: learning to read, mastering multiplication. Last week, seeing a student understand how to add mixed fractions and doing so successfully on her own after doing four or five of them together. Another student drew a portrait of me a couple of years ago and I still have it. She got the collar of my shirt and the earrings I was wearing exactly right.
Why is it important for you to volunteer at Raphael House?
Raphael House has an excellent philosophy and program of putting structure and support around families: each family eating dinner together every evening; parents packing lunches; story time; after school tutoring (snack, homework, supplemental work, reading); getting kids into swim lessons, summer camping and river rafting trips; programs for parents too.
What has been the biggest surprise about volunteering at Raphael House?
Kids are kids. When in the room with these kids, they are no different than any other kids. Once in a while, fifth grade math stumps me. The rooftop playground rule: upon arriving on the roof, run 10 laps before going on to play. I think that is brilliant!
Why do you think it’s important to give back to families experiencing homelessness by volunteering?
Homelessness and poverty is instinctually something that I have always taken an interest in. Maybe because my home is so important to me — a place to feel at ease, safe and happy — without it I wouldn’t be able to go about my busy life as competently as I do. It is not difficult to put myself in someone else’s shoes and see that if a few things hadn’t gone my way, I could be on the street. I recognize my good fortune and believe it is right to help others.
Anything else you want to share about volunteering at Raphael House?
I drew upon my experience at Raphael House last year when I created and lead an art program with refugee children in Beirut. The philosophy of the Raphael House Tutoring Club informed my approach and structure of that program. I felt at ease, it was familiar walking into that situation because of my experience at Raphael House. In fact, I think the years of experience here helped me get the volunteer opportunity in Beirut. The afternoons I spend at Raphael House are often the best part of my week.
Thank you so much for your dedication to families at Raphael House, Laura!
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