Cheers to These Volunteers! Meet Cynthia & Bobbie

Last summer, a Northern Illinois Food Bank truck pulled up to Mercy Housing Lakefront’s Batavia Apartments in Batavia, IL., loaded with donated food.

For Batavia Apartments Resident Services Coordinator Lynn, it was a welcome sight. Margaret Perrault, the CEO of the Batavia Chamber of Commerce had helped to coordinate the donation drop off and reached out for volunteers to help distribute the food to Batavia Apartments’ residents. Cynthia, the President of the Batavia Women’s Club and club member, Bobbie had heard about the need for volunteers and spread the word to the other women in the club.

And the women showed up, helping to unload the truck full of groceries for Batavia Apartments residents. Little did Lynn know that day was going to lay a foundation for a special relationship to form with this group of phenomenal women.

“We’re really thankful for Lynn. I want to say that first and foremost,” said Cynthia recently. “Certain roads led me and Bobbie and our club to Mercy Housing, but Lynn is really the one who said, ‘Come on in and join us in what we can do.”

Bobbie added, “When I met Lynn, she talked about the needs of the Batavia community. And she was so compassionate and passionate about what she did. So, I mean, I was hooked. I was already familiar with Mercy Housing because I had worked with St. Vincent de Paul in Batavia.”

The gratitude was reciprocated as Lynn explains, “I started talking to Cynthia, and she said she was interested in doing more with our community. She then invited Taylor (Resident Services Manager, Batavia Apartments) and me to one of the Batavia Women’s Club meetings where we presented a slide show of the things we’re doing, like our Out-of-School Time programming. And the women felt so moved and started asking us how they could help.”

Prior to that meeting, the club had scheduled a cleaning drive with the women showing up with cleaning supplies to donate to the Batavia community. “We had a car full of cleaning supplies to give residents,” Lynn noted.

This was just the beginning for Cynthia, Bobbie, and the ladies of the Batavia Women’s Club.

Dedicated to Helping the Community

Cynthia had worked as a resident nurse (RN) for several years, having treated patients from different backgrounds, and in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago. “I had wonderful experiences dealing with people in diverse situations, including patients living with low incomes and in poverty,” Cynthia explained.

Bobbie had spent years in the classroom as a teacher before retiring. She had seen five and six-year-old students who didn’t have access to preschool previously. “She has a gift to walk into a room of little people who grip her,” Cynthia said. “And she brought all of her stamps and stickers and here was this little three-year-old boy with his single mom – he was so curious and so interested in our table, which was full of art supplies.”

An October Surprise

Halloween was just around the corner when Lynn reached out to Cynthia and Bobbie about helping the kids at Batavia Apartments decorate pumpkins, as part of Mercy Housing’s Out-of-School Time (OST) programming. Without hesitation, Cynthia said that she would “love to decorate pumpkins with the children,” and contacted her local Fresh Thyme Market, which was happy to donate enough pumpkins for each child to decorate.

Cynthia and Bobbie get into the Halloween Spirit with Batavia Apartments youth

“She prepared a couple of them…you know, scooped out the guts of the pumpkin,” Lynn laughed. “She’s very hands-on.”

It didn’t end with pumpkin decorating, the women also participated in the community’s “Trunk-or-Treat Street.” Some of the kids even recognized some of the club members from the OST programming.

“One resident remembered them, and he went up and gave them hugs,” Lynn reflected. “The ladies were so tickled that he remembered them.”

“Cynthia and Bobbie have so many ideas on how to help,” Lynn said. “When we were struggling with having enough snacks for the kids in our Out-of-School-Time program, Cynthia put a note out to her Batavia Women’s Club friends, and before I knew it, there was an entire shopping cart full of food to meet the need.”

That wasn’t the first time Cynthia appeared in her office with a cart of groceries. “Apparently someone had the wrong order from Walmart and told Cynthia to keep it.” And with food prices continuing to rise, the donation came at a perfect time.

The cabinets at Batavia Apartments are now full and kids have healthy choices for after-school snacks, much to the delight of staff and the community’s 632 residents (half of whom are children).

From pumpkin carving to delivering healthy foods to the Batavia Apartments community, Cynthia stayed in close communication with Lynn brainstorming ideas on how the Women’s Club could continue to volunteer there.

Giving Back

Earlier in the week, Bobbie had dropped off some Christmas Trees for residents. Lynn had mentioned that she was looking for trees for the holiday season, which led Bobbie to mention it to the Batavia Women’s Club and to her husband. He in turn mentioned it to his Rotary Club, “word gets around” Bobbie said. A few days later she got a phone call to come and pick up the trees and ornaments. “It just makes me happy,” said Bobbie when asked about volunteering at Batavia Apartments. “When you listen to the lady who came in and was one of the recipients of the tree giveaway saying that she got a tree and it’s going to have lights. She was just so overwhelmed with the generosity…that touched me – we can make someone’s life a little better.”

“You altered their life. You know you’ve changed their life.”

“I don’t know how many people get excited over two pallets of food,” Lynn said. “I know the kids that are going to be eating it. I know the residents who are going to appreciate it and that’s the best gift ever. I don’t need things – just those moments. Somebody’s heart was this big that they thought, ‘Let’s just help them.’”

Learn more about Mercy Housing volunteer opportunities (Volunteer | Mercy Housing)