Volunteer Experience: Reaching Out Brought a Lot of Joy to My Heart
What is it really like being a volunteer at a coat giving event? One of our most recent members of the Operation Warm Volunteer Brigade took time out to tell us about her volunteer experience.
Syntel Noviello, “a newly transplanted southern girl from Louisiana” volunteered with at an event in Philadelphia that was sponsored by Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers. The event built on Simmons’ service in the city’s community.
Noviello says that volunteering with Operation Warm helped her reach out and get to know her new state a little better. “There are lots of good people here,” she says. Plus, she learned a couple of new things about what it was like to have a hands-on volunteer experience. “It was a really good experience. It brought a lot of joy to my heart that day,” she says.
Noviello takes us through her volunteer experience, from how she found a favorite volunteer opportunity to everything she got to do and see during the event.
Why did you apply to volunteer with Operation Warm?
“I recently moved to the area about a year ago, and I always said that I wanted to do something to give back. I did some searching online, and to be honest, Operation Warm really was one of the most organized volunteer organizations I came across,” she said. “I had reached out to some other organizations and they never got back to me.”
“I got really excited when I saw Operation Warm. They have the website, they broke everything down in the process, and as I started completing everything, it was all laid out. All of the ducks were in a row, and that made me feel great. And then, specifically, I got really excited because it has something to do with clothing and helping children. It all seemed to make sense, and it was the right time.”
What was your volunteer experience like?
“As soon as I got into the parking lot, I met up with a couple of people from Operation Warm who were nice and friendly, which was great. And I noticed that things were partly set up, which was also great,” she says. “Everything was laid out, and I just jumped in there and started to help. I started putting the signs for coat sizes on the tables. Everything was super organized, and it went really well.”
“They had fruit and breakfast laid out for us. All of the teachers, and another group that does tutoring were helping as well. It was just all hands on,” she says. “Everyone had a friendly smile. Everyone was willing to help.”
“Once we got everything set up, the kids started coming out, which was definitely my favorite part! My first kid was the cutest little thing. A Bruno Mars song was on, and she was dancing. She was probably about five or six years old, and she was just dancing all over the place.”
“Some of the kids were super outgoing like that, and some were so shy. I just tried to make it a great experience for each one, take them through the entire process. I think they had a ball.”
“It was nice for them to get to pick out the coats. I could tell them, ‘You don’t have to worry about having a coat. You are going to be warm all winter. Isn’t it comfy? And they loved it. They were so excited. That was a big joy, to see them happy.”
“There were three little boys who all wanted the same jacket so they could be similar to each other,” she says. “Oh, my goodness they were so cute. Most of the girls wanted pink, and those coats were awesome. All of the kids were able to find what they were looking for.”
“And the end of the day the basketball player Ben came, and the kids got the meet him. He really took his time with them. I watched as he let one of the kids shoot [a basketball], and the kid kept missing, because the basket was so far away. Ben let him shoot five or six times, and he did that with every one of the kids.”
“The media coming in—it was just so exciting. It was just real life here. It was a really good day.”
What would you tell others who are looking to volunteer?
“I would tell people to just give it a chance—go for it. For someone like me, well I’ve been working on the house for two years, so there are not too many opportunities to go out and make connections. All of the employees there, and the other volunteers, everyone was just so nice and so friendly.”
“I recommend giving it a try if you are looking for something that’s organized. Everything is really there for you. All you have to do is show up and they’ll put you to work, and at the end of the day, you’ll really feel like you made a difference. I definitely did.”
What would you tell others about the good that Operation Warm does?
“What a great way to spend your money. To know that there are no ifs, ands or buts about it. It is going right there to that kid, keeping them warm in a city like Philadelphia,” she says. “It is an area that does have a lot of poverty, so they need it. It is a city that does get so cold. I just think that it makes sense: one and one is two.”
“It is a great organization, a great product, coats, and great kids, so yeah, I recommend people take a look. It is definitely a great organization to give to.”
Learn how you can volunteer to help children in your community receive a gift of warmth, confidence and hope!