Volunteer Spotlight: Junior League of Richmond

Dinner with friends

For the Junior League of Richmond, volunteering at The Doorways is a can’t-miss commitment

Lauren Fisher White had no trouble finding 17 fellow Junior League of Richmond members to volunteer at The Doorways on Dec. 20 — even so close to Christmas. Spending an evening with The Doorways guests is a popular “Done in a Day” activity for the JLR, an organization of women devoted to community service and developing leadership. The commitment that Tuesday included providing a home-cooked potluck dinner and a concert of a cappella carols.

“We love volunteering at The Doorways,” says White. “It gives us the opportunity to serve those in need and make their day brighter.”

For more than a decade the JLR has been partnering with The Doorways to provide a monthly dinner and activity. Through Done in a Day, the JLR assists community organizations including The Doorways in one-day projects focused on children and families, totaling over 1,400 volunteer hours annually. Though JLR membership requires a volunteer shift at The Doorways, chapter president Joanne Frye says many members, like her, aren’t fulfilling a requirement and sign up simply because it’s a meaningful way to spend a few hours.

Frye can relate to the stress, worry and displacement The Doorways guests might be feeling: Her father has been in and out of the hospital her whole life. “I love coming here,” says Frye, who knows the value of a meal that didn’t come from a vending machine or hospital cafeteria. “I love being able to serve people food. It’s nice to give back.”

On the menu that night: lasagna, meatballs, broccoli casserole, fried chicken, sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, pimiento cheese sandwiches, ham biscuits, three kinds of salad, and desserts that included gingerbread cookies, pies and cupcakes. JLR volunteers filled plates through an assembly line, asking each guest what looked good. The lasagna went especially fast.

A frequent volunteer, Caroline Van Ness was a pro at pouring drinks. To her, coming to The Doorways is like being among friends. “The guests will ask me to play Bingo,” she says. “I’m more of a friend than a worker.”

Kimberly Paulsrud is chair of the Done in a Day committee. It’s clear to her why hosting dinners at The Doorways is appealing to JLR members. “The guests here are wonderful,” she says, “and so appreciative. And it’s fun! There’s a sense of family and community. Guests are always saying ‘thank you’ and ‘glad to see you again.’ There’s a sense that you’re doing more than just serving dinner.”

A successful night, Paulsrud says, is when “everybody is full, and everybody is smiling.”

“It’s the best two to three hours that you can spend,” she adds. “If I can make someone forget their problems, I’ve done a good thing.”

Carla Davis is a writer and editor living in Richmond.

Interested in volunteering? Check out upcoming opportunities at The Doorways!