Allison was enthralled by the AFS stories of her uncle who spent a year in Spain in the early 60s and in 1976, she too, was able to experience the impact of AFS during her year in Turkey. Her daughter kept the family tradition going and became the third generation to share AFS stories when she went to Italy in 2003. These experiences turned into hosting their first student from Italy and then into volunteering. Allison is currently the Support Coordinator of the California Central Coast (CCC) Team. In the words of Caren Marre, the Team Development Specialist, Allison is known in her team as the “cornerstone of support and an organizer extraordinaire. Whether recruiting new volunteers to support the AFS mission as liaisons, Sponsored Programs coordinators or Sending coordinators, her energy for AFS is limitless. You name it, Allison does it.”
What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?
I just love our mission and working with volunteers, students and families. I love to see the “aha moments” in other’s eyes (and my own).
What’s a typical volunteer “shift” like for you?
It’s so cute you think there’s anything like a typical shift! Our team is very functional because we think in terms of trainings and orientations, yearly calendars and strategic planning. We understand that some years we can do more and some years we need to step back. We try to have lots of small jobs for people to do because many hands make the work light. That said, some weeks I may volunteer two hours, and others, 20. It just depends on what is happening and where I am needed.
What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience with AFS?
First, I have learned from each and every staff person, volunteer, family and student with whom I have worked. I have learned to dig a little deeper to get the whole story. I have learned to love surprises. And I learned from my dear friend and former colleague, Phil Gordon, that what happens after the program is far more important than what happens during the program. This is my mantra and what gets me through those tough support cases.
Please share the best or the funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS.
Best thing: I have become much more of a world citizen since becoming involved with AFS. Funniest thing: It is hard to choose, there are so many, but this is a good one. A few days after a particularly grueling Arrivals week at Los Angeles International Airport, our area team volunteers were meeting in Solvang (CA) for an in-person leadership meeting. Sandy Butts, a long-time volunteer with our team called to say she might be a little late because she was stopping to pick up a Danish. “WHAT??!” I replied. “Allison, relax! A Danish pastry, not a kid.” Only an airport volunteer that year could really have understood my goofy response. Thankfully, with our new regulations, we don’t have nearly the airport drama we used to.
What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS?
Here’s a helpful link. Let me open it for you. Right now.
What is one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you?
I’m actually a little shy.