As a young mother, Tis Olesko found herself in an abusive marriage, desperate to find a way out. Two of her good friends extended their hands and helped Tis move out on her own and get back on her feet. She promised to pay them back for all of their financial support as soon as she could, but when the time came they refused to take her money. Instead, they asked Tis to pay it forward by helping other people. Tis never forgot about this extraordinary act of kindness and kept it in mind throughout her life. When the time for retirement came, Tis knew exactly what she would spend her time doing: she knew she wanted to volunteer helping families and children in her community.
When Tis read about United Way’s Welcome Baby program, it was a perfect fit, and she has been volunteering ever since. Welcome Baby is an in-home visitation program that helps new mothers and teaches parenting skills. At first, Tis was assigned to visit five families, but now that number has grown to 17. She loves bringing educational activities for the children to play with and learn from. She is always looking for ways to connect these families with local resources. “A lot of the time that I am not with my families, I research what they need. I find stuff, connections, or things that they can do because I feel like I need to pay it back. I need to give them the help that somebody gave me. It gives me a purpose in life.”
Home-visit volunteers like Tis serve as a great support system for these new mothers. Tis helps reassure them and guide them through every new stage with their children. Among her 17 families, Tis has helped mothers resolve their children’s bad habits like biting, hitting, and wetting the bed. “I have to reassure them that they’re fine. You feed your child, you care for your child, you teach your child. You’re doing all of the things correct,’” says Tis. On every visit, Tis also brings information to help parents through each new stage of child development, to supplement her advice as an experienced mother.
Tis loves being a Welcome Baby volunteer and claims that she is the one receiving the most benefits. “I do get paid. I just don’t get paid in money. I get paid every time I walk into those doors, I get more out of it than I give it to them. They give me a purpose. They give me a way to use my brain to help them,” she says.
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