Gateway Domestic Violence Center
For more information about or to volunteer with the organization, call 770-539-9080 or visit gatewaydvcenter.org. Also, Gateway operates thrift stores at 1080 Dawsonville Highway and 1642 Park Hill Drive in Gainesville.
The giving spirit
This holiday season, The Times each day spotlights a person or couple who give of themselves to help others in the community. Today, meet Alice and Bud Volk who have been volunteering since 2003 with the Gateway Domestic Violence Center.
Alice Volk's birthday falling on Christmas Day has turned into a gift for the Gateway Domestic Violence Center.
About 15 years ago, she asked her children to recognize her birthday by giving instead to a charity that involves women.
In 2003, her son, after some research, chose Gateway, which, in turn, sent information to Volk. And that's how she learned the Gainesville-based organization had a volunteer program.
"And I called and talked to (a staff member), and that's how I started working here," Volk said.
She started by doing office work, but that later expanded to other duties at Gateway, which serves, among other things, as emergency shelter for battered women and their children.
"Gateway has done so many good things and when you hear it firsthand, it makes what you are doing seem more important," said the 66-year-old native of Yonkers, N.Y.
"The things I do aren't related to the people, but it is supporting Gateway, which does the things that are needed."
Her volunteer service also has attracted the efforts of her husband, Bud, 71, a New Jersey native, who helps out with Friday grocery shopping and some occasional plumbing and electrical jobs at the center.
The Hall County couple, married for 46 years, has traveled the country on Bud's work in the telecommunications field, including a previous stay in Georgia. After retiring, they returned to Georgia.
The 2003 gift by her son coincided with the couple's first Christmas back in Georgia.
The office work matched up with Alice's bookkeeping skills, which had helped her get work in the states where the couple lived.
Before long, she was helping with the center's occupational therapy program.
A worker had noticed Alice's knitting and crochet abilities — that's how she passed the time while answering the phones — and asked if she'd like to help with the program.
So, today, she stays longer on Thursdays as one of the program's facilitators.
And then there's the Friday grocery trips.
Bud downplayed the task a bit, saying, "It's not a lot of work."
"It's not a lot of work if we remember our calculator," she shot back, smiling.
Alice contributes about 40 hours a month to Gateway and Bud, 10 to 12.
The time they spend doesn't go unnoticed.
"They are very caring and believe in what we do here," said Jessica Butler, Gateway executive director. "And they're always willing to jump in and do whatever needs to be done.
"The giving of their time is also a significant financial contribution, because they keep us from having to pay staff to do the things they are doing."
Alice chimed in, "That is truly one of the reasons we do it. We could not donate the money it would cost you."
The volunteer work does have intangible rewards.
Alice recalled meeting a woman who had years before been a Gateway client. The woman told her, "Our family is together because of Gateway."
Because of the nature of the work, avoiding emotional ties with the victims can be difficult.
"Not all of the people are here a long time, but when they are here a long time, you get attached to them, very much so," she said.
So why go through such labor when the Volks can rest easy during retirement years?
"I'm very lucky and I've always had a very easy life and have had people to teach me and show me to do things, and I like to share that with other people," Alice said.
"You get a lot more out of it than you put into it," Bud said.
She nodded her head in agreement.
"Also, when you come here, there's not one person I don't like," Alice said. "The people here are all giving, caring people who have a lot of empathy for other people. This is not a place where people complain about their job."