Meet Lauren Gelecke, your Chicago Cares Leader of the Month for April! Lauren is a Marketing Coordinator for Tripp Lite, a computer hardware and technology company, and has been a volunteer with Chicago Cares for more than four years. She has served at monthly projects and has taken on a leadership role as a Volunteer Leader and Primary Leader for our annual events.

As a leader for Celebration of Service 2012, Lauren was a pleasure to work with and really on top of things – she was willing to go the extra mile. When she was unable to attend the same leader training as the rest of her team, Lauren came to our office to meet with an Annual Events Coordinator during lunch to go over the details of her project, even though she had previous experience as a leader. That kind of commitment is always very impressive and really comes through on the day of the event. Lauren and the rest of the leader team gave great feedback about their project, and we are looking forward to working with all of them again for Serve-a-thon, June 9!

Chicago Cares: Lauren, can you share with us how long you have been volunteering with Chicago Cares and what project you lead?

Lauren: I have been (serving) with Chicago Cares for about four or five years now. I started volunteering for monthly projects but transitioned into being a Volunteer Leader for Chicago Cares annual events and now a Project Site Leader.

Chicago Cares: As a longtime volunteer, what has been your motivation for your commitment to volunteering and leadership?

Lauren: Volunteering was a part of my upbringing, but I never really took the time to understand its value and necessity. As an adult, I realized the disparity among communities/suburbs and families that aren’t as fortunate . I didn’t want to look back on my life and say I didn’t step up to the plate to help others, even in some small way, so I joined Chicago Cares. Chicago Cares gave me the perfect outlet to give back. They allow you to volunteer on your time and allow you to pick your projects, so you feel confident your skills are bringing value to the project and to the community.

Chicago Cares: What is your favorite issue area in which to serve as a volunteer?

Lauren: I really love going to the schools and helping with renovation efforts. I’m pretty handy, so it’s the perfect project for me. Some of these schools are in pretty bad shape, so coming in and painting, building, cleaning, and organizing is a huge task but definitely necessary. It can be a full day of hard work, but the result of all that hard work is immediately evident when you walk through the halls. It really feels like you’ve accomplished something – and you have! It may seem simple, but even just painting a room can transform a space and stimulate young minds. I’ve seen the looks on kids’ faces when they walk through the door and their smiles from ear-to-ear, you can’t get that from a Saturday afternoon of watching TV!

Chicago Cares: It is wonderful that serving at Celebration of Service and Serve-a-thon have been rewarding experiences for you! What has been your greatest triumph as an annual events leader?

Lauren: I was a volunteer leader during one of the annual events and I had a team tasked with renovating the playground and landscape of an elementary school. It was an overcast and rainy day; nevertheless, my team rose to the occasion without complaint. We were told to do a small section of the outside area, but as we started to work, we realized we could easily knock-out the whole front. I asked my team if they were willing to work a little harder, and everyone unanimously agreed. Every single person put their hearts into completing our project. The team worked right up until they had to get on the bus! It was inspiring to see how everyone came together to go the extra mile. When it was all said and done, the outside was completely transformed – I like to think our flowers are still blooming each morning as the kids walk into school.

Chicago Cares: What advice would you share with other volunteers who may be interested in becoming a volunteer leader?

Lauren: Just do it! It is so easy to get involved and it’s greatly rewarding. With Chicago Cares, you get the chance to meet new people and help out communities in need. And with monthly and annual events, volunteering can fit into anyone’s schedule. You have the choice to do good and the ability to help others, you just have to get up and do it!

Congratulations to Lauren for being April’s Leader of the Month!

If you are interested in learning more about being a leader with our Annual Events Service Team like Lauren, contact Kim Thomas or call (312) 780-0800 ext. 125. Registration is now open for the 19th Annual Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon on June 9th, 2012!