Inn Volunteers Continue to Provide Comfort, Joy and Hope

Volunteers are the backbone of The Children’s Inn at NIH. When a visitor walks through our doors, often, the first face they see is that of a volunteer at the welcome desk. Volunteers help prep and stage events, big and small, that bring The Inn families together and help give it the reputation as “a place like home.” They provide meals, friendship, and so much more to the staff and families of The Inn every day. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the discontinuation of the volunteer program, it struck at the heart of what The Inn strives to be.

“We faced a big challenge during the pandemic when we couldn’t have volunteers in-house,” said Meghan Arbegast Smith, The Inn’s Volunteer Engagement Manager. “Volunteers help us with mission-critical tasks every day, supporting our families and the children who are receiving critical medical care at NIH.”

Volunteers remained fully virtual for the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a gradual return beginning in April 2021. Though many volunteers remain virtual, this week Volunteer Appreciation Week will be celebrated in-person at The Inn for the first time since 2019.

Laura was a fourth-grade teacher at a school in Montgomery County. Upon retirement, she wanted to find a way to keep active with purpose and continue to make a difference in the lives of young people. For her, The Inn was a natural fit.

“The Children’s Inn is a wonderful place to volunteer, especially if you want to support a children’s organization,” she said. “You can pick something that fits your interests, and it’s a great way to meet new people.”

“Definitely reach out and get involved,” added Ben, a volunteer who regularly works at the front desk and as a tutor while also serving on the Snowed Inn organizing committee each year. “There are so many cool things that you can do here that fit your schedule and your talents.”

Volunteers like Laura and Ben have an integral role to play in nearly every facet of operating and maintaining The Inn. Whether it’s wrapping presents for the Christmas in July event, cleaning family areas, watering plants outside The Inn, tutoring, assisting with administrative work, or being a friendly and helpful presence at the welcome desk, volunteers are in the middle of it all.

Though volunteers are once again a part of the daily fabric of life at The Inn, they remain committed to ensuring the health of all the families staying there as COVID-19 continues.

One of the main changes is that we can only have one person at the welcome desk due to social distancing and occupancy. We are able to keep everyone safe by ensuring that all of our volunteers are vaccinated, and we require mask wearing.”

Meghan Arbegast Smith, Volunteer Outreach Manager

Though the pandemic has prompted a number of changes to the volunteer program, it has not impacted the mission of The Children’s Inn. “The mission of The Children’s Inn, the services provided, and the dedication of the staff and volunteers has remained of the highest level,” Laura noted. For The Inn, such consistency is only due to the continued dedication and enthusiasm of the volunteers who remain at the core of everything The Inn can accomplish.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities, please go here.

Photos from our 2022 Children’s Inn Volunteer Appreciation Lunch