“I know we’ve just gotten started, but they used to live here and I just have to say hello.” Ruth Fox waves excitedly across the Seattle House lobby to a mother and a young girl, and they both come running over. Ruth and the mom catch up and marvel at how much the girl has grown.
After a few minutes, the girl tugs on her mom’s hand: she’s anxious to see what has changed at the House since they moved back to their own home. “I love it when families come back to visit,” says Ruth, watching them wander off into the House.
Ruth has met many such families since she started volunteering five years ago at the Seattle House front desk. “I think of the front desk as being like the concierge of a hotel,” she says. “We answer the phones, we help people with their keys if they get locked out of their rooms. We give people directions to things in the neighborhood or to the zoo or aquarium. Above all, we try to be a welcoming presence.”
“Sometimes, the little things we’re able to do — giving a resident some shaving cream, or a stamp, or a basketball — can lighten the load a bit for families. It’s always a great feeling when we’re able to provide what a resident needs.”
At the front desk, Ruth gets to know almost everyone who has an interaction with the House: families, staff, volunteers, and donors. She’s always surprised by the many ways that people find to help out around the House. “You get to see this incredible generosity from the community,” she says. “There’s always someone walking in the door wanting to do something kind.”
Ruth normally works three front desk shifts every weekend; she’ll occasionally also pick up an evening shift during the week. Over time, Ruth has taken on more duties related to the front desk, like training new volunteers and managing the volunteer schedule. Since she knows all of the volunteers and is such a big part of keeping the front desk running smoothly, some of the other front desk volunteers have jokingly started to call her Mom. She admits (a little sheepishly) that a few of them even signed a Mother’s Day card for her this year.
Even though she has devoted so much time to the House over the years, Ruth still feels humbled by the families she meets. “I’m not sure that those of us who haven’t lived here, who haven’t gone through these experiences, can truly understand what the House means to the families,” she says. “I don’t find it difficult to continue volunteering — I find it very rewarding and I look forward to it.”
We’re always looking for new front desk volunteers! If you’re interested in volunteering with Ruth at the front desk, or in other opportunities at the House, please click here to check out our Volunteer page.