Volunteer Nation

Call it a compassion boom: In these troubled economic times, more and more American women are reaching out to help others in need. Meet four LHJ readers who began doing community service for the first time this year -- and discovered the rewards of giving back and making a difference.
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Mentoring Prisoners' Kids

Lisa Anderson, 50
Newport Beach, California

What I do
I spend about two hours a week with an 11-year-old girl whose father is in jail. We go the beach, hit the zoo, get manicures together, or see a movie. Sometimes we just hang out: She really loves to eat and play Hangman.

Why I do it
Over the years I've gone to fundraisers for various charities. But I wanted to do more than just go to fancy dinners and balls; I decided it was time to do something hands-on. I signed up for this mentoring program and promised that I'd work with this girl for a year. But I've already decided to stick with it; I want to be involved in her life for as long as I can.

Unexpected challenge
It can be hard to get in touch with her. Her mother is on government assistance, lives in a high-crime area, and doesn't always have a phone. Several times I've had to get other volunteers to help me find her. But kids need consistency, so I make sure we get together. I want her to know she's important to me.

Personal payoff
My own father has been in and out of prison for the past 25 years. Even though I was an adult when this happened it was still devastating. Before I started volunteering I was too embarrassed to talk about it. But once I started telling my new pal that she is not her father, I realized it was true for me, too.

Continued on page 2:  Helping Homeless Teens


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