Peace House’s new volunteer coordinator overcomes COVID-19 challenges
Maggie Duncan joined Peace House as its new volunteer coordinator three months ago — right as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Summit County.
Since then she has worked with her volunteers at the anti-domestic abuse nonprofit to make sure they continue to serve their clients, while following the Summit County Health Department’s coronavirus restrictions.
Duncan will be the first to say the job has been a challenge.
“I’m trying to take it one week at a time,” she said. “At first I had the idea to make a plan for the whole (shutdown) duration, but things kept changing,” she said. “COVID-19 has taught me how to be flexible, for sure.”
A big part of the puzzle is for her volunteers and Peace House staff to work as a team and identify the greatest needs.
“For a while we didn’t have any volunteers on site, but since then we’ve gotten creative in finding ways for them to serve remotely,” she said. “We are finding who can step into certain roles so that we are keeping as few people on site as possible.”
Duncan has assigned volunteers to work on development and education, as well as finding new duties for the front desk staff, who aren’t yet able to come into the office, she said. (See accompanying story).
“We’re having them work on a training manual for volunteers who might step into that role in the future,” she said.
Still, there are some volunteers who have to be at their stations, according to Duncan.
“We’ve had a few volunteers trickle in to help with pantry, the boutique and shelter, to get things organized as much as we can safely do so,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how we can slowly stagger back in to fill the rest of the duties.”
Duncan came to Peace House after working as an assistant team leader at La Europa Academy, a residential treatment center for girls ages 14-17, in Murray. When she left that position, Duncan knew she wanted to remain in the social service field, and continue working for a nonprofit.
She found Peace House on a job board.
“I was drawn to their holistic care, by that I mean seeing the client as a whole person,” Duncan said. “For example, the shelter is not just a safe, physical place, but it’s also emotionally, spiritually and mentally safe place.”
Duncan also felt a camaraderie in how Peace House staff communicated during her interviews.
“They also seemed to really enjoy their jobs,” she said. “It’s a big deal to me when someone describes their job and I see their face light up.”
Prior to her work with La Europa, Duncan owned her own gymnastics studio in Tennessee and worked as an associate children’s minister in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Duncan said her ministry degree from Covenant College has helped with her job at Peace House.
“I feel like it helps me to recognize people’s core motivations and beliefs,” she said.
“When I talk with them about volunteering, I can really see what they’re passionate about and what they care most about. And that helps me learn about what’s driving them, why are they volunteering and what they hope to get from volunteering.”
Duncan enjoys her new life’s calling at Peace House because she is drawn to the idea of individuals building up their communities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic while victims are more likely to be abused because of the stay-at-home protocols.
“Peace House had a 25% increase in calls to our helpline from December 2019 to March of 2020,” said Executive Director Kendra Wyckoff. “This trend continued through the months of April and May with an average 18 calls for help and support being received each day by our helpline or direct service staff.”
Duncan said she is heartened to see the volunteers step up their game during these unprecedented situations.
“It’s cool to see people coming together during this difficult time,” she said. “To be that person that equips and connects community members to support each other is a huge gift for me. Peace House is one giant team, and I’m just a small part of it.”
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