January’s Volunteer of the Month is Emma Roller, who celebrates her one-year anniversary as a member of the Playtime family this month. As a volunteer with the Teen Night program at D.C. General, Emma was nominated by former Teen Night intern Porshe Norman, who said: “Emma comes in consistently and has such a great relationship with the teens. She’s always down for all the activities and participates 100%. She comes in with an amazing attitude and full of positivity.” We are especially grateful to Emma because of her fantastic fundraising efforts for our Heroes of Play 5K event last October. She raised $1,405!
Why did you initially get involved in Playtime?
After the 2016 election, I was looking for a way to make a difference in my community. I’ve always loved working with kids, and I knew my friend Mallory Schwarz (who is great!) was involved with Playtime, so I decided to go to a training last January. I’ve been volunteering with the teen group on Thursday nights for the past year.
How has volunteering with Playtime affected you?
It’s impossible to understate how much Playtime has affected me. I think the stigma against homeless people in a rapidly gentrifying city like D.C. is very real. I’m not exempt from that — I know that Playtime has helped me expand my thinking about what homelessness actually looks like on a day-to-day basis, and how it affects these kids. Playtime is all about creating a positive force in these kids’ lives. Playtime is about providing a space where kids can be kids for a few hours each week, without having to worry about the other stressors in their lives. You might think these kids would want to close themselves off, but I’ve witnessed just the opposite: these kids’ hearts are so open to each other and to the world. Some of the Teen Night girls call each other “best friend,” which I find so sweet. They inspire me every time I come in.
Share a memorable moment as a Playtime volunteer.
Too many to name! Planting flowers and vegetables in the garden was definitely a highlight from last summer. One of my favorite Playtime memories is probably last year’s Halloween party. The teens loved putting up the haunted hallway and spooking the younger kids. One of the teens gave me some rad cat face paint. Another favorite memory of mine is when we had an open mic night. A local comedian came in and did his routine, and some of the teens tried their hand at stand-up. One teen is a natural comedian — his Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation cracks me up every time he does it. “Get to ze chopper!”
What else do you want people to know about your work with Playtime?
Joining Playtime was one of the best decisions I made in 2017, and I hope my words inspire more people to join us in 2018! If there’s one thing I’ve learned at Playtime, it’s that living your life with an open heart is always worth it.