Young Volunteers Rewarded by Library Experience
October 18, 2013
By Tiffany Jothen
“They’re so lucky they get to come here!”
That’s what Erin Fox thought the first time she visited the Billy Graham Library at Christmas time and saw people wearing Library shirts stationed throughout the building. She later found out that they’re volunteers. Then she heard that she could volunteer, too.
“When, where, how?” she asked. “Can I start tomorrow?”
Fox is 32 and one of the Library’s younger volunteers. Many of them are retired.
Before Fox was trained as a volunteer a few years ago, she said she was searching for a way to minister to others, but wasn’t sure where to go.
“If you aren’t sure what to do, go where God’s already working and be a part of that,” she said. “All of the people here, they just truly had a genuine love for God. … This place has got it goin’ on!”
Fox, who didn’t grow up in church, tries to get her friends to volunteer, too. Her fiancé, Richie Clough, 29, was trained as a volunteer in February 2011.
“The people were so nice. It was just something that I felt like I could really get into,” he said.
On his first visit to the Library, he stayed for five hours.
“I read everything on the wall. It was so relaxing,” he said. “There’s a spirit of calmness all over the grounds. You didn’t want to leave.”
Both Clough and Fox work with adults with special needs at a group home. One young woman Fox works with, 23-year-old Nikki Stapleton, volunteers at the Library as a greeter. She sits or stands by the front doors, welcoming visitors as they come and wishing them a good day as they go.
“You meet new people every day from all around the world,” she said.
Some of these people come from the nearby Charlotte-Douglas Airport on a layover. Some drive for hours to make it a daytrip, or from several states or countries away to see what they have only read about.
Sometimes Stapleton leaves her post by the double doors and introduces visitors to the Journey of Faith tour. There’s a script involved, and it has made her more comfortable speaking in front of groups.
Fox works as a ‘floater,’ giving other volunteers breaks and taking prayer requests. Like her fellow volunteers, she has one motive: “sharing the love of God with other people.”
Fox said the older volunteers have taught her a lot. She isn’t so intimidated by praying out loud, and she has learned to sing whenever and wherever she feels led. Yes, sing.
Earlier this year, one of the Library’s faithful volunteers, Pastor Fleet Kirkpatrick, passed away. Pastor Fleet would sit in a rocking chair in the Library’s bookstore, praying for people and singing hymns. Fox has kind of taken his place.
“Before him, I would not break out into song in the middle of the bookstore,” she said. But now, “I will do this anywhere.”
Fox remembers one bookstore visitor who was browsing the grief section. She later found out the woman was mourning the loss of her son. Fox prayed while she perused the books, but the timing didn’t feel right to approach her. Then, as the woman checked out, the cashier told Fox that the woman wanted prayer and asked her to take the woman to the prayer room. Before she left, Fox sang for her — “It is Well With My Soul.” Others joined in, and the woman hugged Fox before leaving.
Shelsea Barun, 20, has worked in Guest Services at the Library and said young people can be blessed by spending time there.
“I definitely feel like I’ve matured a lot,” Barun said. Older volunteers have shared their wisdom with her. She has grown in her faith and developed a heart for others. It’s not just a Library, she said, but a place to see God at work in people’s lives — including her own. The atmosphere humbles her.
Prior to the Library, Clough volunteered elsewhere but said it was mostly “tagging along.” At the Library, he said, volunteering “means so much more. There’s more at stake.”
Clough volunteers in the prayer room and said some people come to the Library just to pray. Some work nearby and come in on their lunch breaks. Clough doesn’t give advice, but helps them let go and let God.
One man about his age showed up on a Tuesday — a day Clough doesn’t usually volunteer — and wanted someone his age to pray with. The man had been involved in a gang but wanted out, and Clough got to pray with him following his decision to turn to Christ.
Clough’s father is a minister.
“I had heard the word ‘evangelism,’ but I didn’t know how to go up to someone and ask, ‘Do you know who Jesus is?’ … I’m still just so shocked at how much I was missing out.”
Clough also gets a lot out of his friendships with older volunteers who “have been through life.”
“They have a lot to pass on,” he said. “You feel like their grandkid. … They love on you.”
The volunteers, old and young, pray for each other and share wisdom they have gleaned from Scripture.
“When you’re volunteering in here, you feel like you’ve got a family,” Stapleton said.
Stapleton finds time to volunteer between guitar lessons and her involvement in the Special Olympics. She plays bocce and tennis.
Clough doesn’t have to be at work until the afternoon, so he volunteers in the mornings. Fox does the same and also works in the bookstore as an employee.
“Jesus is at the forefront of this Library,” Fox said, “and I want to be a part of it.”
To volunteer, click here.