By Scott Robertson
The spirit of volunteerism thrives at a local residential facility serving those with brain injuries, thanks in large part to its founder.
When Crumley House founder June Barrett was honored by the Points of Light Foundation earlier this year, she was being recognized by the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. Founded by former President George H.W. Bush, the foundation harkens back to President Bush’s speech in which he referred to America’s volunteer organizations as, “a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.”
“Your efforts are a remarkable example of the generosity and compassion that make our communities stronger and better,” said a letter to Barrett under the signature of the former president. “Thank you for being a shining point in your community.”
Barrett has been honored many times in the past for her work creating Crumley House, which provides residential treatment for individuals with documented brain injuries. The recognition from the Points of Light Foundation is significant because it points up not only the work Barrett has done, but also the inspiration she has provided for others to volunteer.
In fact, said Barrett, the sheer volume of volunteer work at the facility came as a surprise to her when she tallied it up. “In the last year alone, we have had 349 individuals volunteer their services to the Crumley House,” she said. Volunteers do everything from helping provide therapy to just sitting and keeping residents company.
Community volunteers take an active role in the spiritual life of the residents at the facility, says Guynn Edwards, executive director of Crumley House, “We have 10 to 12 ladies from a church that come in, do vespers and fix dinner one night, then you get 10 to 12 from another church that does the same thing another night. You’ve got the Women’s League from Our Savior Lutheran Church that does stuff for us throughout the year, so there’s probably another 20. It all adds up.”
The biggest concentration of volunteer activity occurs around the two main fundraisers for Crumley House. The Polynesian Beach Party, Edwards says, took 90 volunteers to stage. “To put on a beach party with everything from the decorations to the preperation of the food and setting the tables out with all the decorations – we can’t take staff away from their daily jobs to go do that. So volunteers are vital in every aspect of putting on that event. The same thing is true for the 5K run.” That run wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of around 70 volunteers, Edwards says.
The efforts of volunteer students from ETSU, Milligan, Walters State and Tusculum make the day-to-day operation of the facility possible on a limited budget, Edwards says. “As the executive director I look at our program as well, and one of the most important things to me is to be able to make budget. Having those kids from those graduate and undergraduate programs come and help with speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy – able to provide those services to our clients with no cost attached to it – is the most important thing that I see in terms of volunteerism.”
It all started, of course, with Barrett’s own volunteer spirit, creating the facility with a single-mindedness of purpose that has inspired volunteers for years now. And as the facility grows, there will be a need for even more volunteers. But Barrett is confident they’ll come, and they’ll do what’s needed. “There’s no limit,” she says, “to what these volunteers can do.”