Volunteer Spotlight: Sandra Christensen
Meet the Project Warm-Up volunteer who's a natural "PR person" with a fun fashion sense. Part of a new series highlighting the stories of RSVP volunteers.
RSVP Director's Foreword: One of the great privileges I enjoy as RSVP Director is the opportunity to get to know our volunteers and capture their remarkable stories of service. On a regular basis, I'll be bringing you profiles of the dedicated older adults who exemplify the values that RSVP and national service are built on.
Volunteer: Sandra Christensen
Volunteer Station: RSVP Project Warm-Up
RSVP Member Since: 2019 (officially); Project Warm-Up participant since 2013
While Sandra enrolled in RSVP officially fairly recently, she has a long history in community service, having volunteered for Spokane's Sheriff Community Oriented Policing Effort (S.C.O.P.E.) for over 20 years, as well as the MS Society, Candlelighters, and the local Chamber of Commerce.
Professionally, Sandra worked for 13 years for a pre-vocational training center for people with developmental disabilities, an organization that eventually evolved into the Arc of Spokane. Later, she worked as a community representative for Buffets, Inc., planning events and coordinating charitable activities on behalf of the business.
I gave out over 200,000 free meals a year here in Spokane. I did events with every kind of theme you could imagine. We gave out awards to students. We worked with Junior Achievement. We got a standing ovation from McDonald's, believe it or not . . . I want to invest in people and make them feel good about themselves.
Sandra's boss at Buffets, Inc. told her, "You're a PR person. I knew that from the moment we hired you." I had no trouble believing this when I spoke to her, given her spirited, outgoing demeanor.
Keeping her community safer through S.C.O.P.E. will always be one of Sandra's most meaningful volunteer experiences. She recalls how the community oriented policing effort began with her and other parents walking their kids to and from school, protecting them from predators in the neighborhood.
In the early days, this involved some risk to volunteers, as Sandra recalled one time the police had to inform S.C.O.P.E. volunteers to remove their uniforms and take shelter because they'd "received credible threats against S.C.O.P.E." Still, she was proud to inform me that through the vigilant detection and reporting of volunteers, "we closed down seven different drug houses. We tried to help them 'weed and seed' - plant new seeds and help them turn their lives around." These days, S.C.O.P.E. volunteers stick to more routine safety initiatives like providing bike helmets to children and leashes to people with unleashed dogs.
Thanks to S.C.O.P.E., Sandra made lifelong friends and became better integrated in her community. It's these interactions with people on the street that let her know she's made a difference through her work.
They might not remember my name, but they remember, 'Hey, there's that lady from S.C.O.P.E.!' . . . You think about all the people you've helped that you don't see. Those are the people I know I'm reaching.
Sandra has always loved to crochet, so when she learned there was a way to donate the things she'd made and help other people, she was eager to get involved with RSVP's Project Warm-Up through the Brookdale Park Place knit-n-chat group. RSVP Advisory Council member Karen Gallion, who helps coordinate the Park Place group, told me that, in addition being "super talented," "Sandra comes in a complete outfit that she designed every time!" Karen shared the photos of Sandra featured in this post, and it's easy to agree that Sandra's creativity is on full display in each one.
Like many Project Warm-Up volunteers, always gets excited when she sees other people wearing items she's made. "I'd see people on the street and recognize the work and say, 'I know who made that! I know who made that scare or that bonnet and think, this is so cool."
Sandra concluded our conversation by offering this message about the value of volunteering:
It will change your life, for the rest of your life. It will be a positive. There is nothing you can do that will change your life in this way, and no one can take that away from you.