What brings people together more than a cute pet? Betty Herrin, a volunteer at United Ministries, knows that there is nothing quite like a dog to get people out of their shell.

Betty has been volunteering weekly at the Place of Hope, United Ministries’ day shelter, for over five years. She has gotten to know many participants well over the years and finds that bringing Caleb, her pet shih tzu, to the day shelter occasionally brings out a different type of communication. Participants and staff gather around her and begin sharing stories of their own pets, all while admiring her beloved dog.

These individual stories told about pets are characteristic of the Place of Hope in general. As a retired nurse, Betty brings her medical expertise while volunteering and offers medical advice to some of the participants who come by. After assisting with medical questions for so long, Betty has learned that “everyone has their own story.” Sometimes the community forgets that and puts all people experiencing homelessness in one large, vague group. Betty goes on to explain, “Everyone has reasons for being in the situation they are in. Some people just need advice and extra help to get out of that situation.”

Because everyone is so individualized, Betty’s key to being a great volunteer is being an excellent listener. When she listens intently to a participant’s situation, she can respond with individual advice and care. She strives to always be sincere in her replies because she knows that the person she’s assisting will benefit most from sincerity and can tell when responses are artificial. Because of her honest interactions with others, Betty has developed a wonderful relationship with many of the participants who frequent the Place of Hope. She explains that she “enjoys volunteering and misses it when [she] is not able to be there.”

Betty’s time volunteering has not been without the occasional challenge. When first beginning to come to the Place of Hope, she found it to have a very different set up from Triune Mercy Center, where she does similar volunteer work. As the new volunteer on the block, she had to be patient with figuring out a routine and having participants feel comfortable around her. This took time, but now she is fully immersed in volunteering at United Ministries and is in a very effective role, thanks to her medical knowledge and kind heart. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication, Betty!