Volunteer Spotlight: Catie Offers a Warm Welcome

April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and The Children’s Inn is recognizing the many individuals who take the time to help out at The Inn. Their integral work, often done behind the scenes, helps make The Inn “A Place Like Home” for the children, teens, and young adults staying here. One of those volunteers is Catie from Rockville, MD.

For most people who visit The Children’s Inn at NIH, the first person they meet is not an employee but a volunteer greeting them at the front desk with a smile and an eagerness to help. For many, that smiling volunteer is Catie, who has served as a volunteer at The Inn since early 2018.

“A colleague [at the Food and Drug Administration] who had done the therapy dog program at The Children’s Inn had mentioned that they have a volunteer program,” she remembered of her introduction to The Inn. “I really enjoyed volunteering and giving back to the community, and I was looking for more opportunities to create more of a work/life balance for myself. I applied in January 2018 and never looked back.”

For most of her time at The Inn, Catie has worked at the front desk, a job she finds rewarding and challenging. “You’re the first line for a lot of people,” she explained. “You don’t even realize how important it is for them. You provide that first sense of normalcy.”

Two years after Catie started at The Inn, things were anything but normal. The COVID-19 pandemic forced nearly the entire world to shut down temporarily, and The Inn was no exception. Though a limited number of families and staff were still in the building, the volunteer program was put on pause to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved. Catie, though, wanted to stay involved.

“Any time there was a chance to help out during COVID, I wanted to,” she smiled. “I was able to do things off-site, like sorting the groceries. It was nice to be involved because it really hurt my heart not to be at The Inn during that time. You understand, of course, and I’m sure it was just as hard on the staff. But it feels like a community. Everyone is family here.”

As soon as the volunteer program resumed in full force in 2022, Catie was back at her post, welcoming families, visitors, and staffers to The Inn with warmth and enthusiasm. Most importantly, she thoughtfully took on the role of gatekeeper to the health of Inn families, explaining the COVID protocols and the necessity of immediate testing for families arriving from all over the world.

Catie, a member of the Volunteer Advisory Council, is also involved in her community in other ways. She donates platelets to the NIH Clinical Center and has volunteered for therapeutic horse riding programs in the Greater Washington D.C. area. Professionally, she works as a special assistant in the FDA’s Office of New Drugs, an experience that helps her understand what the families at The Inn are going through.

But in the end, like the families who stay here every night, Catie considers The Inn her “Place Like Home.” A dog lover herself – her dog Bud joined her when she was interviewed for this story – Catie keeps a steady supply of treats and always has time to give Zilly pats when she is in the front desk area.

She looks forward to the summer kickoff party each year and enjoys interacting with Board members and other supporters of The Inn when they arrive. She says it is inspiring to see the diverse backgrounds of the people coming together for the common cause of The Inn. Catie can count herself in that group, providing inspiration through her boundless warmth and energy to everyone who encounters her at the front desk.