Volunteer Spotlight, September 2017: Grace Laughinghouse
Written by: Amy Knorr
When I met Grace Laughinghouse, it only took me minutes to learn two important things about her. Grace is intentional, and she is passionate. As we talked, she bubbled over with ideas and thoughts about Family Promise, her church community, and her greater community. Her desire to serve and be a part of restoration in the lives of others is clearly a driving force in her life, and her volunteer work with Family Promise is making possible so much good being done in our Southern Chester County community.
How did you get connected with Family Promise? What drew you to volunteering?
Our pastor, Pastor Mark, is very involved in the community and always looking for ways to serve. We actually moved to Oxford largely because of Oxford United Methodist Church. We just immediately felt part of the church community, here. When we joined the church, I mentioned that I was really looking to help with areas like homelessness and hunger. I’ve always felt like volunteer opportunities in these areas are my second career. When Family Promise reached out to OUM, Pastor Mark asked me to be the coordinator…he knew it would be my thing. I saw the slideshow and attended the meeting, and I just jumped right in. It was my thing.
Every coordinator is different. For me, when we have guests, I try to be there. So my total time during guest weeks is kind of like a part time job. It’s not because I have to, but I want to. I plan for this week, and I know it will be a long one. But I want to be there. Our overnight volunteers usually try to come and eat with the families to try to connect with and make families feel comfortable with their surroundings, and I like to be a part of that.
During the week and during our off-weeks, I send emails to all volunteers to keep them in the loop. I try to come every night that we are hosting. I don’t do the overnights because of my little ones, but I assist with the meals as needed and just get to be with the guests. I like to be a familiar face for our guests. I set up the facility with the cots and I break down the facility. My son likes to come help me sometimes. That’s one of the great things about Family Promise — we often have whole families who come and volunteer together! I also do the initial grocery shopping to fill the fridge and share the fridge refreshing responsibilities during the week.
This is not a one-woman show. There are so many people who make our host week possible that I can’t even name them all. I have a meal coordinator, Carol Hauser, who keeps all the meals coming for our guests. She is amazing! And on a practical note, she’s found some meals that really work — when we have guests, we have a fried chicken meal, a Mexican-food meal, a spaghetti night, and a pizza night. We have chef teams that cook regular food but the homemade versions…think chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. Oh, and ice cream works really well for desserts. We also stock the freezer with quick meal items in case we have a picky eater. Apostolic Church of Oxford helps with meals and hosts for three of the nights. They have several volunteers that are fluent in Spanish, which helps with our non-English speaking guests. ACO’s pastor, Pastor Dave, comes to serve with his whole family. It’s really a community effort, here.
Can you tell me one story that just sums up why you continue to give your time and energy to Family Promise? Why will you keep volunteering this year?
I remember the first time we had guests come. There was a single mom with multiple jobs. I went home and broke down. These men and women are waking up at 4AM every single morning moving their families from church to church. They are so strong…so brave. They don’t know us, but they are willing to bring their families into a new place every week just to keep them all together. This makes me want to do more. The families are the reason I do this. Every time the families come in, it’s a new story, a different family. But there is a sameness…the strength that each one of these families have is something I see every time. That makes me want to keep coming back. It hits me hard. I keep coming back because of them…because of how strong they are and how I want to try to provide them with love and support so they can keep on being strong.
Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like the readers to know?
Our church is a community and as a whole, there are so many people who make this possible. Becky Klienz helps out throughout the week and fills up little baskets with toiletries, cleans the bathrooms so they are fresh. No one asked her to do this. She just wanted to do something and this is what she chose to do. The youth group just recently adopted a night of the week to come in and cook the meal and serve the meal to our guests. We are looking to combine the junior high youth group with the high school youth group to serve together one week. On the week leading up to the guest week, our junior youth group makes blankets to give as a gift to the kids that come as guests. We pray over the blankets and when we give them the blankets, it just makes them smile.
I wish I could put into words how amazing I think Family Promise is. I would encourage churches to get on board because it’s such an involved way to be with those who are hurting. Seeing the faces of these families is different for me than writing a check. When I write a check, I know I am helping, but I don’t get to see the grateful smiles, the hands reaching out to help wash the dishes or sweep the floor, the actual help I am giving. Volunteering is special to me, and I would just encourage people to find an hour or two and go eat with and serve the families if at all possible.
Fun Facts about Grace:
You are standing in the junk food aisle. Do you pick sweet or salty?
Salty! Cheese Doritos — I could eat a whole bag of those things!
You have a free hour. Do you pick up a book, binge on Netflix or something else entirely?
Read a book…I love historical fiction.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
To use my eyes to make the laundry fold itself and put itself away. Can you tell I’m a mom?