What would BIIN be without its volunteers? An empty shell, a driverless car, a promise waiting to be fulfilled. All of BIIN’s programs and services are planned and run by volunteers – people who share their time and talents, without receiving any compensation or material benefit. The vital work provided by volunteers, along with the donations of many individuals, are what enables BIIN to reach and serve, free of charge, some 600 immigrants in the Brazos Valley in an average year.
As part of BIIN’s Annual Meeting on September 13, Director Jaimi Washburn presented the Annual Volunteer Honor Roll – one way of recognizing the deep value brought to the organization by the people who serve as volunteers. BIIN is run by busy people, and one of the easiest ways for a small non-profit to track volunteer hours is to ask individuals to log the time they devote to the organization. Here’s the list of BIIN volunteers who, as of September 2020, have recorded the most hours in the Volgistics management system:
People who have been involved in BIIN for some time will not be surprised to see the three names that top this list. Tony Caraballo has been central to the IRA program for years, and has almost single-handedly responded to many of the IRA-related requests that have come to BIIN since the start of the pandemic. Susan Dennis has been the key leader of the English Conversation Partners program for many years, and worked hard through the spring and summer to transition that program to its current iteration on Zoom. Clotilde Pichon, another steadfast IRA volunteer, has played a fundamental role in overseeing the administration of the BIIN CARES Fund this spring and summer. All three of these long-time volunteers exemplify the generosity and commitment that make it possible for BIIN to serve our neighbors without regard to income, language or immigration status.
The six individuals named in the second category are all known as stalwart contributors to BIIN’s best established programs: Mary Campbell and Carol Goldsmith help teach citizenship classes; Greyson Holt and Jake Mason have helped lead Conversation Partners classes; Mark Lacey and Gloria San Andres are part of the IRA team, working to provide individualized support and guidance for many needs. Thank you to all of these standout volunteers for their deep and long-standing commitment to BIIN and its clients.
Among the other people who made the honor roll are likely several who have given far more in time and talent than the records of the Volgistics system reflect (we know: you are busy, and it’s easy to forget to log your hours!). Jeremy Brett, Shelby Cummings and Rich Woodward have also been helping to teach citizenship classes for years. Linda Ford, Fran Bracher, Susie Ohendalski, and Rhoda Segur have worked with the English for Parents program for the last couple of years. Some of the volunteers in the third group are newer to BIIN. Vivian Bronsoler joined the IRA team in fall 2019, worked closely with Clotilde on administering the BIIN CARES Fund, and with Clotilde, led discussion of the fund’s implementation at the June “Sip and Learn.” Miguel Esparza joined the Conversation Partners team this summer and also volunteers with English citizenship classes. Zoe Schneider served as a BIIN intern with Conversation Partners, but then continued as a volunteer when her internship was complete.
We should also point out that everyone who serves on BIIN’s board does so as a volunteer. Many board members are also deeply involved in carrying out one or more of BIIN’s regular programs. There are people who have done so much for BIIN over the years – for example, Nancy Plankey-Videla, whose many roles are recognized in a separate piece – and whose names are not on this list, simply because they have not developed the habit of recording in Volgistics the hours they give to the organization. Sandy Petty, a faithful volunteer with English for Parents and a long-time supporter of BIIN, pictured below, also exemplifies the generosity of many who simply show up, week after week.
Another way of assessing the impact that BIIN’s volunteers have is considering the comments made by people who participate in specific programs. For example, Conversation Partners student Enrique Espinosa, speaking of Susan Dennis, Greyson Holt and Jake Mason, points out: “They have such big hearts — you can tell they really care about everyone who walks in.”
His classmate, Rosa Lopez, says, “We learn a lot because they have a lot of patience with us, and they can answer any question that we have.”
Speaking of the same set of teachers, Jesús Alberto Perez observes, “They are so committed to helping others, and they bring both cariño and conocimiento (affection/love and knowledge) to their work.”
Teresa Gonzalez, who took part in BIIN’s citizenship classes, remains deeply grateful to BIIN, its volunteers and board members, especially Nancy Plankey-Videla. Thanks to BIIN, she says, she was able to pass the citizenship exam, and she has found lasting friendships and the confidence that motivates her to do anything she sets her mind to.
Daniela Caballero, one of the participants in the English for Parents program held at Neal School until March 2020, had this to say to the volunteers: “Muchas gracias por dedicar un poco de su tiempo para ensenarnos. Que Dios los bendiga y los ayude para que sigan brindando esta labor tan bonita.” In other words: “Thank you so much for dedicating your time to teaching us. May God bless you all and may He help you as you continue to do this beautiful work.”
To all of BIIN’s volunteers, whether you have done so for a long time or have more recently joined us, we say, “Thank you!” BIIN’s programs depend on personal connections and individualized attention, knowledgeable and caring leaders and guides, creative and effective advocates. Without the presence, commitment and contributions of people like you, BIIN could not do what it does. Thank you to everyone who gives of their time and talents to help BIIN carry out its mission in our community.