Volunteer Spotlight: Dima Does It All

photo of Dima

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 Dima from Bethesda.

Many years ago, Dima found herself spending a lot of time on the campus of the National Institutes of Health. Her father, Bill, was being treated for an unknown cancer at the NIH Clinical Center, as well as across Rockville Pike at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Though her father would pass away, Dima was touched by the level of care shown to him and her entire family by the doctors and staff at NIH. So, as she began exploring volunteer opportunities, her attention returned to the medical campuses.

“I was looking at opportunities at both places,” she remembered. “Specifically, I wanted to give back to the people who gave us so much great care. That’s when I found out about The Children’s Inn.”

Dima applied for a volunteer position at The Inn in 2019 and had been in the role for just a few months when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily put the volunteer program on hold. When it returned in early 2021, she was among the first to come back on-site.

In her time at The Inn, Dima has gotten involved in a wide variety of ways. She started as a sub at the welcome desk but quickly switched her focus to helping with the dinner service The Inn provides to all its residents each night.

“I still support the dinner service once a week,” she explained. “Anytime there’s a sponsored dinner, I’ll help the organization or the group who are there setting up the dinners. If they need extra hands to serve the food, I’ll help do that. We also make dinner boxes for families checking in later or families who might have missed dinner so everyone has a meal.”

Though Dima’s weekly visits typically revolve around helping with that night’s sponsored dinner, she has provided valuable help in many other ways. One of her more unique offerings is her fluency in other languages, in particular Arabic. One family in particular left an impression on her after their interactions.

“I had created a bond with one mom in particular,” Dima smiled. “They were only supposed to be here for a few weeks and they ended up staying for over a year. Mom didn’t speak English and didn’t really know anyone, so anytime I would be at The Inn, I would make sure to sit with her and just talk. It put a smile on her face, but honestly, it really put a smile on my face as well just to know that I was able to be there for someone going through such a tough time who already had a communication barrier with everyone.”

That commitment to providing a warm, welcoming environment is what drew Dima to volunteer at The Inn in the first place. Now after several years volunteering here, she is proud of the part she plays in making The Inn “A Place Like Home.”

“I used to think going [to The Inn] that I wasn’t doing enough,” Dima recalled. “But everyone I meet there is just so grateful, kind, and appreciative. It’s such a warm place, and I think that reflects the mission of what The Inn is trying to accomplish.”

Dima, who lives nearby in Bethesda, often pops by The Inn when she is not scheduled to work, just looking for ways to help out. She regularly helps the programming team set up for events and parties happening at The Inn and was a fixture in the Gingerbread Gift Shop during the holiday season, helping families pick out and wrap presents for their loved ones.

“Volunteers like Dima do so much for our families and staff that can go unnoticed but never unappreciated,” said Meghan Smith, The Inn’s Senior Volunteer Engagement Manager. I know everyone who comes into contact with Dima, whether they’re a dinner sponsor, a family, or a staff member, can see how much she embodies our mission and serves as a great ambassador for The Children’s Inn.”

group volunteering at The Inn

Dima and coworkers from LMI, who she brought to The Children’s Inn, volunteering at a family meal