Karen Eckberg : Volunteer of the Month

Karen Eckberg : Volunteer of the Month

Karen came to us in April of last year. When we asked her if there was anywhere in particular that she would like to serve, she said, “Nowhere specific. Wherever you need me!” She loves serving older adults and senior citizens, wellness and recreation, and helping others find meaning through activities and volunteering. She just loves helping people out in any way that she can. She’s got a heart of gold.

We started by plugging Karen in with administrative and operations work doing volunteer coordination and data entry. Super exciting right? But Karen kept showing up. Over and over again with a smile and a warm demeanor. Whenever she comes into our office she always brings tender and excited love to our entire staff.

Today, Karen is still helping out with volunteer coordination AND is stepping in as an area lead for all of Love Fullerton’s Retirement Home Projects. She is so good with serving senior citizens because of her incredibly warm hearted and caring personality.

Thank you Karen for the true impact and investment that you have made at OC United. The OC United family LOVES YOU!!!

Here’s a little bit from Karen:

How did you first get involved with OC United’? — Why?
Very first? What was my first involvement? I guess the first time I really felt involved was when a friend invited me to come into the office to help out with childcare for some young women who were coming with their kids to do crafts. It must have been a couple of years ago — probably two years ago. And I had always known some of you guys [OC United staff] and always wondered what happened down here. It wasn’t until I sat down in this space and I learned about all of the initiatives and what was going on, I didn’t have all of the conviction that “I want to be here.” Once I was here I was like, “yeah! I’ve got to get going down here.” That was the first time. I wasn’t a volunteer for awhile because of life circumstances. But that was a good first kind of thing because the ladies that were here were appreciative and obviously very connected to the volunteers and staff who knew them. Right away it was a sweet and caring environment and things being done from a heart level — it was a good first and simple thing. That’s the fun thing about volunteering is you don’t know what its going to be like but then you go, “That was easy! And it was fun!” I remember just finding the office, parking across the street, finding which door worked and feeling new. Everyone has that first experience. So I’m grateful to that friend for getting me down here. She is part of Joint Heirs at EvFree and they’re involved with a lot of programs here. That was a good way to get me down here for the first time.

What is one memory from your involvement that has had a particularly meaningful impact on you?
I think my first Pumpkin Run! Pumpkin Run 2017. Because there were community members in addition to OC United people — a mix of people just walking along the trail. I had some conversations with moms from Valencia Park. They were just animated and appreciative of OC United. I’m highly relational and so realizing that OC United is having relationships with people in the city that need some assistance was memorable. The fact that it wasn’t just a fundraiser but it was … What’s a good word for it? It was just a true community event. It wasn’t “Oh good we got all of our pledges and some money” there was such a good community feel with the conversations I was having with people. That was a good event and Pumpkin Run is always fun. That was really memorable.

What have you learned along the way?
*laughs* that my brain doesn’t work as well as it should. *jokes* I guess one of the things I’ve learned is if you’re willing to bring yourself to a volunteer position knowing that you probably don’t have it all together or all the skills or all the resources within you at that moment — that as you volunteer, you are still valuable and you will still grow and develop those skills, understandings, and resources that continue to make you feel more effective. You’ve got to start even when you’re not ready. If I had known that I would be working on these darn computers and doing data stuff I would be taking some classes because I wasn’t ready. There were a few days where I thought, “Maybe I’m not the right person for the job and should quit.” But if you just bring yourself willing to learn, to try, to be used, and to be taught and to be helpful. That’s probably been the biggest thing for you. We live in a world where we want to be perfect and do things perfectly. We want to know it all and be the hero but that’s not how it works. If you just bring yourself and be willing to be taught and join the journey with who you are and just get on the train and go where people are going — when I first heard about what OC United was doing I thought, “Yeah! I want to get on that train. They’re doing stuff that highly values people. That’s a good train to get on.”

How has this been for you?
It’s been good. Most Tuesdays and Thursdays I think, “Oh good! I get to go to OC United today.” It’s a place where I feel super accepted and appreciated. You all have been so affirming about having me around. It’s definitely been good. My kids have grown up and left and there was a bit of a void. The days were long with [my husband] at work… I don’t have to make dinner til 4:30 and I already made a Target run… the afternoons were a little less interactive. So for my heart and my soul, it’s been good to realize and to change my focus. I don’t have to run around and chase kids and laundry and fix big meals so I have some extra time. It’s been good to feel needed. There’s just something so much more meaningful to do with your time.

I think a lot of it for me is God saying, “Trust me, move forward, get involved in following your passions or your hunch of what you should be doing. And don’t be fearful of it being “just the right place” or being equipped to do it.” I think a lot of my hesitation is “Oh someone else could do that a lot better than I could.” But its God saying, “Trust me and go. Move forward and go. I’ll equip you. I’ll be there to get you through any anxious moments.” If there’s been anything specific from God it’s been that I just have to trust Him and follow those little nudges that He gives me. It’s probably been good for my soul to have trusted and followed that nudging from the Holy Spirit, to have trusted God. I could give up some time and so we will see where it goes and what it all entails. Let’s just take this journey and get on that train.

Anything in addition to add?
I’m trying to think what might – in terms of encouraging other people – would be. I just think hey if you’re that person who wants to get involved, just get started. It will figure itself out.