In celebration of National Volunteer Month, we are highlighting our employees’ important work in their communities.
Dima Calnan: Children’s Inn at the National Institute of Health
I’ve been volunteering with the Children’s Inn at the National Institute of Health (NIH) on and off since 2020. I started as a welcome desk volunteer, checking in new families, answering calls, and welcoming every visitor into the building. NIH put the volunteer program on hold for a while because of the pandemic but started again in 2021. I was eager to come back and help, so I began volunteering with the weekly dinner services in addition to welcome desk shifts.
For the past year, I’ve focused on helping the team with the dinner program. Once a week, I set up the meals and deliver them to families in isolation. It’s a short shift but it’s such an amazing experience and wonderful environment. The last thing families need to worry about during their stay is food. It brings me joy to know that my support makes a difference for them.
The Children’s Inn at the NIH provides residential services and a wide range of programs for children, teens, and young adults participating in leading-edge research studies. Housing and all related services come with no cost to the families, making volunteering, donating, and getting involved crucial to support the mission. Through these volunteer opportunities and services, the Inn feels as close to a home as possible for the families—whether it’s for a few days or even months. Activities range from meal programs, art classes, and tutoring to wellness events, fields trips, and more.
To learn more about the Children’s Inn at the NIH and volunteer opportunities visit Children's Inn at NIH | Get Involved | Volunteer.
Dima Calnan volunteers with the Children’s Inn at the National Institute of Health. For the past year, she has focused on helping with the dinner program by setting up meals and delivering them to families in isolation.
Cheri LaBelle: SA Yes, Little Locker Stuffer
I volunteer as a Little Locker stuffer for an organization in San Antonio called the San Antonio Youth Educational Support project—SA Yes.
Prior to joining LMI, I was an elementary STEM lab teacher at a low-income campus. I relied on the generosity of organizations that offered grants to purchase materials for my students. In 2021, I was awarded a grant to purchase robotics kits by SA Yes. This nonprofit organization provides educators and schools with resources to support their classrooms in the goal of providing educational equality for Title One campuses.
To give back to the organization that provided my classroom with a grant to purchase robotics kits, I now serve as a Little Locker stuffer. My role is to travel to various low-income neighborhoods across San Antonio and restock the book lockers at multiple schools. These books are donated to SA Yes and are free to students and families in the community.
This volunteer opportunity has become a family affair. My three children (ages 14, 13, and 4) now join me on my trips and assist with restocking all the lockers.
Cheri LaBelle travels to various low-income neighborhoods across San Antonio to restock the book lockers at multiple schools.
Noel Mueller: Trout Unlimited and Virginia Trout Heritage Day—Kids Fishing Event in Syria, Virginia
The Virginia Trout Heritage Kids Fishing Day was held on April 1, 2023, at Graves Mountain Lodge on the Rose River in Syria, Virginia. It was a day of learning how to fish the Blue Ridge Virginia Mountain streams for trout. Trout Unlimited members, including myself, spent a full day on the river assisting children with fishing, learning about stream health, and studying macroinvertebrates as well as teaching safe catch-and-release methods and how to care for our mountain streams. Sections of the Rose River were reserved for children 12 and under to fish. The river had been stocked with large brook and rainbow trout the evening before by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. This year’s activities included additional education and hands-on activities, including fly casting demonstrations, fly casting classes at a make-shift pond for children and adults, insect monitoring in the stream, and helping kids with fishing on the Rose River.
Although it rained heavily in the morning to early afternoon, the weather didn't deter anglers from participation in indoor and outdoor activities. Sunlight and warmer temperatures later in the day attracted even more attendees. In addition to supplying food and beverages, the event awarded door prizes, including hourly fishing tackle giveaways. Good times indeed!
Trout Unlimited is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization with more than 155,000 volunteer members organized into about 400 chapters nationwide. TU is dedicated to the conservation of freshwater streams, rivers, and associated upland habitats for trout, salmon, other aquatic species, and humans. Through TU and its partnerships with government environmental and wildlife preservation agencies and organizations, my membership and volunteer work with the TU Rapidan Chapter provides me many learning and volunteer opportunities year-round in my chapter's region, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the nation.
Noel Mueller volunteers with Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of freshwater streams, rivers, and associated upland habitats for trout, salmon, other aquatic species, and humans. At the Virginia Trout Heritage Kids Fishing Day earlier this month, he spent a full day on the river teaching safe catch-and-release methods and how to care for our mountain streams as well as assisting children with fishing, learning about stream health, and studying macroinvertebrates.