This month’s Volunteer of the Month is Cortney Whitlow, who began volunteering with Playtime three years ago at our partner site, Turning Point Center for Women & Children.
“Cortney shows a great sense of dedication to our Turning Point families,” said Tora Burns, Site Manager, who nominated Cortney. “She works with a positive attitude that transfers to other volunteers. She has built an excellent rapport with our Turning Point babies.”
Why and when did you initially get involved in Playtime?
I got involved in November 2015 because I was new to the DMV area and was looking for opportunities to volunteer as it is a passion of mine. I did a brief Google search and came across Playtime because it involved kids and playing! I was inspired learning about an organization that strives to provide positive outlets for children and opportunities to stimulate their motor skills and cognitive development in an engaging way.
How has volunteering with Playtime affected you?
It has only deepened and strengthened my love for children and for serving the community. The children are so impressionable. In the short amount of time I get to spend with them twice a week, I get an opportunity to observe them learn, grow and develop their own personalities as mighty little human beings. I’ve developed strong relationships and ties with the children and their mothers and know that by donating my time, I am making an impact on their lives. Volunteering with Playtime has taught me a great deal of patience, and learning effective tactics for redirecting behaviors in preparation for my own children. It is truly a rewarding experience to see the joy on the children’s faces when they enter a safe space of fun and the appreciation on the faces of the mothers as they receive time to invest in themselves. It is truly a win-win!
Share a memorable moment as a Playtime volunteer.
We had twin boys in the baby room and one was developmentally delayed. He lost oxygen to the brain at birth and experienced complications. He ate through a feeding tube and had to learn how to swallow and utilize his stomach muscles to hold himself up, therefore he was mostly immobile. He was one of the most lovable children we had. His face lit up when he saw me and rightfully mine did to. I am not sure who was more excited. Week by week we worked with him to strengthen his muscles and help him to be more independent, and engaged him in several activities to challenge him physically and cognitively. We would hold him up and he would kick his legs and bounce up and down and he would get stronger each week. The day I saw him lift himself up on his front arms to crawl, I felt like a proud parent. He had come such a long way and the extra time spent in Playtime aided in his progress. I witnessed him crawl and I was so proud of him — providing love and accolades, and he smiled in contentment, knowing he had accomplished a great feat. I felt fulfilled and full of joy when complimenting mom on his growth. Her smile and sincere appreciation filled the whole room with happiness and she was relieved that he was progressing and would not be too far off from his brother. Affecting change is powerful and rewarding. It is a true privilege and honor to serve others.
What else do you want people to know about your work with Playtime?
It is inspiring. Every week I look forward to Mondays and Thursdays after a long day at work. Going to Playtime revives me after dealing with the stresses of “real world” responsibilities and adulting. I get to play with kids who appreciate my presence and I get to see the fruits of my labor. I truly feel like I make a difference in their lives — if I have taught them something, exposed them to something, encouraged them, made them laugh or smile, or served as a listening ear — I have done my part. Our relationship is mutually exclusive — they appreciate me and I appreciate them right back! The real joy comes from investing in the future.