Fostering a Culture of Service and Empathy through Volunteerism

Daily Point of Light # 7757 Feb 28, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Pam Lasley. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

For the past 10 years, Pam Lasley has exemplified the true spirit of volunteerism through her unwavering commitment to Chicago Cares. Beginning her journey in 2014, Pam quickly transitioned from a participant to a leader, making an indelible impact in various community service programs ranging from job coaching to senior lunch clubs. Her dedication as an ambassador, advocate and friend highlights the profound effect one person can have on their community.

“I’ve always just had this tug on my heart to get involved,” Pam shared. “I feel like it’s very much aligned with my purpose. I grew up in church and was always called to serve. It’s definitely something that’s resonated in my life pretty strongly. I’m very privileged, as many of us are, and there are so many people who don’t have much. So, it’s easy to see that there’s need we have to address. I’m eager to jump into the challenge.”

Pam’s transition to volunteer leader in 2018 marked a new chapter in her service journey. She embraced this role with enthusiasm and dedication, becoming a pivotal figure in the Chicago Cares community. Her ability to step up and lead, especially in times of need, showcases her reliability and passion for service.

Pam Lasley’s role as a volunteer leader extends beyond the immediate tasks at hand. She plays a crucial role in training and empowering new volunteers, imparting the skills and values necessary for effective community service. Her approach to leadership is inclusive and educational, fostering a nurturing environment where volunteers can grow and thrive.

“So often, I see women who look like me and have little,” Pam said. “They might not have an opportunity to engage with other women who are able to give. And so I hope that I leave an impression, especially on Black and Brown women like myself. I’m really thankful for that opportunity. And being able to make sure people leave with a full belly, with the groceries they need, to know that somebody has a meal in the next few days – to know that the senior who hasn’t had a chance to talk with anybody gets the chance to have a conversation and feel less lonely. Those are the things that keep me motivated.”

By sharing her experiences and insights, Pam has become a mentor to many, inspiring a culture of empathy and understanding within the volunteer community. Her ability to encourage others to find their “why” for service has not only bolstered the number of volunteers but has also deepened their commitment to the cause.

Pam’s work, particularly at the Street Hope food pantry, has bridged the gap between different community segments. By addressing the needs of diverse groups, including those who are undocumented or seeking asylum, she has created a space where all are welcome and supported. Her efforts go beyond providing food; they extend into providing dignity and hope to those who often feel marginalized. This inclusive approach reflects her deep understanding of the various challenges faced within the community and her commitment to addressing them with compassion and respect.

Pam’s commitment to service is not limited to her work with Chicago Cares and New Hope Church. Her involvement with Habitat for Humanity and the Coalition for the Homeless in Nassau County, Florida, showcases her dedication to tackling a broad range of community issues. By providing meals and support to unhoused individuals, she addresses another critical aspect of community need. Her multifaceted approach to volunteerism highlights her understanding that community service must address various aspects of human need to be truly effective.

Pam Lasley (right) works tirelessly with Chicago Cares and other nonprofits to address food insecurity and other community needs.

Alongside her hands-on volunteer work, Pam is also an advocate and voice for raising awareness about the issues impacting her community. Whether it’s discussing the challenges of food insecurity, the importance of providing support to the underserved, or the need for more inclusive community programs, Pam uses her platform and experience to shed light on critical social issues. Her advocacy work is an essential part of her volunteerism, as it helps to bring attention to causes she is passionate about and garners additional support and resources.

“Volunteering does a couple things,” Pam reflected. “One, it puts your life in perspective to get involved. We so often get jaded with the minutia of life, whether it’s going to the office or trying to get to the gym. Engaging with family and friends. When we put ourselves in an uncomfortable place where we’re forced to see people who are massively in need, it helps put our own things in perspective. Service can be very difficult, but I encourage people to get out of their comfort zones. We all see need, we watch the news, we scroll every day. But many of us don’t make a lot of effort to lean in significantly, because that puts us in a place of discomfort. But getting into that discomfort is honestly one of the most strengthening things. It makes you a better version of yourself.”

At the heart of Pam’s volunteer work is her engagement with the New Hope Church’s Street Hope food pantry program. Here, she has not only distributed food but also forged deep connections with the Hermosa community. Recognizing the importance of effective communication in her role, Pam is even learning Spanish to better serve and connect with community members. This initiative speaks volumes about her commitment to inclusivity and cultural sensitivity.

“Specifically in the Chicago community, there is no shortage of need,” Pam shared. “It’s very obvious. When you make the effort to engage in your community, you can feel so much more rooted in that community. You can live in Chicago for 10 years and not really know Chicago. You may never ever get exposure to these other communities, not far from you, that look drastically different. Getting involved in service work can really help make people feel genuinely rooted.”

In her leadership role at the food pantry, Pam has meticulously organized the operations, ensuring a smooth and respectful experience for visitors. Her guidance in setting up processes for pantry visitor intake, registration and shopper flow has greatly enhanced the efficiency and impact of the pantry. By assisting with various tasks, from greeting and wayfinding to bagging groceries, Pam and her team of volunteers provide invaluable support to the New Hope Church, allowing the pastors to focus on other critical tasks.

Pam’s work particularly focuses on assisting those in desperate need – including people who are unhoused or undocumented, asylum seekers and families facing food insecurity. Her efforts ensure that these community members have access to essential resources like food, demonstrating a deep understanding of the multifaceted challenges faced by various segments of the community.

Beyond the food pantry, Pam has been involved in various other initiatives with Chicago Cares, including senior outreach, kids reading programs, park beautification projects and the Find Your Cause program. The latter, a month-long event connecting nonprofits with potential volunteers, allowed Pam to guide participants in exploring their motivations for service, thereby inspiring a new generation of volunteers.

“There are countless community groups that can accommodate your schedule and availability. Find something that you feel reasonably passionate about and just dabble. There’s nothing wrong with trying something out. Continue to stay curious about service. In that eagerness to learn, you’ll find the right path, the right program that will algin with your life goals and objectives,” Pam encourages.

Pam Lasley’s decade-long service with Chicago Cares is a testament to the power and impact of sustained volunteerism. Her evolution from a program participant to a respected leader, her commitment to community engagement, and her efforts to bridge cultural gaps exemplify the essence of meaningful community service. Pam’s story is an inspiration, highlighting how dedication, empathy and leadership can collectively foster a more supportive and connected community.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Pam? Find local volunteer opportunities.

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