It’s a busy Thursday at the UBH Food Pantry and thrift store (“Hidden Treasures”) — both located in the underground parking garage of Family Place in Santa Monica. Mothers, fathers, and their children (including many infants) are picking out food items for the week as well as new or gently-used clothing, shoes, games, and other household items that community members have donated. The pantry and store are both managed by long-time Pantry Coordinator, Ramona Ruiz, and a crew of four dedicated volunteers who show up every Monday and Thursday to assist Ramona as well as offer support to the families. One of these volunteers is Carole Sibley, who has volunteered twice a week for the past eight years. We are extremely grateful to Carole for her commitment to UBH, so we pulled her away from her post to ask her a few questions.
Why did you start volunteering in the pantry?
I moved here from Boston in 2010, was retired and needed to find things to do and this came up on my radar. I love helping people, being active, and giving back so this was a great organization to consider. With my experience in volunteering, social work, teaching and having children, working with women and children at Upward Bound House seemed like a natural fit.
What is the most rewarding part of the job?
There’s so many! There are so many people, especially single moms, that come in off the street defeated and ill-equipped. Being a mother, I feel like I can help young moms by providing whatever advice I can give. I love helping the moms and I really love the kids! We try to provide an atmosphere that is respectful, providing clothes and toys, and try to make it as pleasant an experience as possible.
The most rewarding part about the job is seeing people leave with stronger confidence, better skills and a foundation to deal with what they need to deal with once they leave.
What do you do for fun when you are not volunteering?
I play tennis. I make jewelry… I’m a silversmith. I walk. I exercise. I go to the beach, do Pilates and travel a little bit.
Why do you continue to volunteer after 8 years?
Because I really enjoy the people and love helping people. I love Ramona, she keeps me here. She is the nicest, kindest, most loving person in the entire world. I also love staying active and I live nearby so I can walk here!
What advice would you give to someone thinking of volunteering but unsure of how to start or whether they should do it?
Well first, they should do it! Find something that really speaks to you, something that you’re really passionate about and then Google. Google Google Google! Find an organization that matches what you’re interested in. Once you find where you want to volunteer, you can work with the people there to find out what kind of time you can donate, what you can do either directly or indirectly. Having been a teacher working with kids with special needs, having a degree in social work, and a passion for helping families, mothers and children, UBH was a great fit.
Upward Bound House needs volunteers to help us help mothers, fathers, and children in need. If you’re interested in volunteering your time, creativity or knowledge with us, please go to upwardboundhouse.org/get-involved/volunteer/
We have opportunities in Santa Monica, Culver City, and South Los Angeles.