Happy National Volunteer Month! | Lily’s Story

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Every day homeless families depend on UMOM programs and services to change their lives and create a bright future. None of it would be possible without volunteers. Without their help, there would be no UMOM.

Thousands of volunteers dedicate tens of thousands of hours each year at UMOM to help homeless families. They sort donated clothes, play with kids, tutor teens, paint walls, help with paperwork, serve meals…the list goes on and on. Each and every volunteer is essential to ending the cycle of homelessness. The time they give is generous and important.

Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes here. Some come alone, some bring their entire families. Some visit every week like clockwork, some focus their time on guaranteeing our families the gift of a happy holidays. And some, like the volunteer you’re about to meet, are furry and have four legs.

Lily is a therapy dog that volunteers with her human Libby Burns every Tuesday night at UMOM. Together they ease the many burdens our families face, and even just for a minute, provide unconditional love when people need it most.

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My name’s Lily—it’s nice to meet you! I’m a 5-year-old goldendoodle, I have beautiful long white fur and I love volunteering at UMOM. Everyone says I’m a good girl, but I already know that.

I may look cute (and I am!), but I take my job very seriously. I went to school for it and took tests and everything. When I see my owner Libby grab my powder blue therapy dog handkerchief, I know it’s time to go to work. By the time we pull up to UMOM every Tuesday night, I’m already in the zone.

What does a therapy dog like me do? Whether I’m visiting elderly humans at a nursing home, comforting humans who are very sick or playing with homeless kids at UMOM, I’m there to be a best friend when people think they don’t have one anymore.

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We sit in the beautiful stained glass chapel at UMOM until a family comes in. They stop by if something’s bothering them or they’re upset. I’m really sensitive to when humans are sad. I can’t help but notice when they’re eyes and noses are leaking all over the place. That’s when I go over and sit next to them, maybe put my head in their lap and wag my tail! My mom says my fur’s like butter it’s so soft—I think that’s why everyone loves petting me so much. Humans sense my kindness and I feel them calm down immediately.

One time a mom came in with four of her kids. She was crying a lot—her fifth child had just been arrested and she didn’t know what to do. I could tell she was distraught, so I sat next to her right away. Even though she was staring off into space, lost in thought, she never stopped softly rubbing my fur. When she left, her smile let me know I did my job.

I think little kids love me the most. They always run in to come see me and say hi! A lot of them used to have dogs like me at their old homes. After petting me they always ask their parents if they can get a dog again when they move into a brand new home. Dreaming of owning a dog of their own again gives them some inspiration and a little hope.

I love coming to UMOM even for just a couple hours every week. It’s my purpose. It’s like my mom always says: if we can help someone get through even that night, it’s worth it.

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