Rochelle Neu Sews Things For Kids
She makes receiving blankets, tiny washcloths, floor mats, and infant crib quilts.
What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I first became a volunteer with Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers when I met Laura Vargas (manager of the Parenting Resource Center) and we became friends. I believe this woman has found her core niche in life as she makes a difference in the lives of all those she touches. When I visited Laura’s parenting class I was so moved by the positive affect she has on the parents and children that I wanted to be a part of that magic. I’ve always wanted to make quilts for babies but could never really find anyone who really needed it until seeing the parents at the center. I could tell that the work they do at Sixteenth Street was worth committing to.
Describe the work they do.
Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers has been helping and healing our community for more than 45 years by providing quality, family-based health care, health education and social services free from linguistic, cultural and economic barriers. The community relies on Sixteenth Street for adult and pediatric medical services, behavioral health counseling and treatment, chronic disease management and many supportive social services.
I am in awe every day of the difference Sixteenth Street is able to make in the lives of the people they serve. I am motivated by that constantly and it’s what brought me to volunteer there.
What do you do when you volunteer, what kind of help do you provide?
I sew adult blankets, receiving blankets, car seat safe blankets, tiny washcloths for infants, floor mats, and infant crib quilts and many other items for Laura to use and give away in her parenting class. I spend approximately 6-8 hours per day sewing, making a quilt about every day and a half.
How long have you volunteered there?
What surprised you the most about volunteering?
I thought I was making blankets just to keep babies warm. I can’t believe what these quilts really mean and how much more they are than that. I was amazed at what they do to help promote brain development by encouraging “tummy time,” how it helps to build the self-esteem of women to have something new, how it once touched the life of a burn victim from domestic violence, who said it was the nicest thing she has ever owned. I am in disbelief at what this has become, when my original intention was so small.
When you think about your paid jobs, how is a volunteering different or the same?
I’m driven to do it not for money or reimbursement of any kind. Seeing all the help the families get from other services at the clinic drives me to make a difference alongside of them. Whenever I sew I think about these little, adorable, innocent babies.
What new things have you learned through this volunteer opportunity?
I have learned the depths of poverty and how little some people have. I’m amazed how something little to me, can be so huge and life changing to other people. By hearing the stories behind those that receive the blankets, I’ve also learned how strong and resilient people are with the challenges they face, and how grateful people are when they receive help.
Has it changed your view of this community in any way?
I went all these years without knowing such a special and amazing place existed on the south side of Milwaukee.
Has volunteering helped you, has it had benefits for you?
It makes me feel like I still have a purpose.
What are you proudest of accomplishing in your work as a volunteer?
I’m most proud that people accept my gift. They don’t notice some of the imperfections that happen because of my eyesight. I have been living with a degenerative eye disease that will eventually leave me blind. The parents still think the blankets and other items I make are the most precious things.
Would you recommend volunteering to others?
Of course I would. You get to feel like you have a purpose, and learn a lot about how other people live and what they can overcome. I was constantly amazed at the strength and resilience of many of the Sixteenth Street moms.
How would you suggest someone begin if they want to volunteer?
In terms of who to volunteer with, I suggest you do some research about an agency and find out about the work they do and the difference that they make. Once I saw all the great things that Sixteenth Street does for people that have such struggles, I had to become a part of it.
To learn more about Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, go to www.sschc.org.