On Friday, June 9, Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s 24th Annual Strawberry Festival was held in partnership with Sojourner House, and the proceeds from the event supported the Sojourner House MOMS program. Earlier this spring, Sojourner House held its annual volunteer recognition event on April 12 to thank all of the volunteers who have given of their time, effort, and compassion so generously.
Also, on April 23, during Sojourner House’s 13th Annual Victorian Tea at Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall at the Priory, Ann Brooks was honored with the Pearl of Hope Award. Given each year at this “friend-raiser” event, the award recognizes a volunteer who has made a difference in the lives of Sojourner House families. For the past seven years, Ann has been directly providing our mission partner’s mothers and children with basic needs, such as clothing, shoes, and coats. She also organizes a monthly Bingo game and brings prizes and good cheer for the families. Below, Ann relates how she came to volunteer with Sojourner House and the family influences who inspired her to share her time joyfully.
Volunteering is a strong calling for me, instilled by my parents and my grandmother. We didn’t know the phrase “paying it forward,” but that’s what I witnessed growing up. My mom threw herself into church activities, PTA, community improvements, even a brief flirtation with politics. My father avoided anything that might involve “another stupid meeting,” but he was the man everyone turned to when they needed a ride to the grocery store, lawn mower repairs, Christmas trees for the senior center.
Raising a son who is a risk-taker, watching my husband struggle to stop smoking, dealing with my own occasional bouts of gloominess; I think these experiences are the reason I became interested in the women working through the journey that is Sojourner House. Their decision to change their lives, to protect and nurture their children is wonderful, but I think the process must be terrifying as well. I wanted to help them succeed but couldn’t think of anything that wouldn’t backfire, perhaps make things worse (e.g., my poorly executed craft projects)!
When I told my daughter Evelyn about my dilemma, she said, “Mum, you’re good at finding bargains. Go and shop.”
I did shop — a lot. I found baby clothes, kitchen wares, miscellaneous seemingly unusable super-bargains. That’s when Evelyn came up with her second brainstorm. She recalled when we played “Bingo for Books” at Pittsburgh elementary schools, suggesting we try it at Sojourner House and use the accumulating gewgaws for prizes. Bingo has been a delight, a chance for moms and children to play together and act a little silly.
Back to my Grandma Drake, whom I loved with all my heart. She was a bit of a Calvinist and used to warn me that if I enjoyed something too much it “wouldn’t count.” I’d laugh, ask her why it mattered if it counted, counted for what? I still don’t have answers, but Grammy, I am enjoying it!