Darlene Harris ’20 strives to provide displaced and low-income population of the Walla Walla area with basic resources at Helpline in Walla Walla, WA

Helpline is a small non-profit organization that helps both those with low-income and the homeless find resources in the community to help them fulfill their basic needs. My first week of interning at Helpline went great, and I was greatly impressed by the compassion and friendliness of the staff and volunteers. Unfortunately, not everyone who works with a community’s most vulnerable possesses the same level of compassion that those at Helpline demonstrate. I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of resources available in Walla Walla to help those in need. Although there is always room for improvement in making resources available, I see Walla Walla doing better than many cities.

My typical day at Helpline begins by checking to see if there are people waiting to be seen, and if so, I call the next person in line. I retrieve their file and have them follow me back to my desk. From my desk, I can find out which service(s) they need and if they qualify. The majority of my clients need to have their food bank issued for the current month. Others need to get a clothing voucher in order to go to St. Vincent DePaul or Son Bridge and to get the items they need. Although Helpline does have some donated clothing, in order to make sure that there is enough for everyone, clients are only allowed to take up to six items a month, excluding items such as socks, underwear, baby clothes, and other miscellaneous items. Helpline also gives vouchers for vision and dental assistance, although it only covers a portion of the exam. Because resources in the community’s vision and dental offices are limited, they can really only help those with the greatest needs. Another aspect of my work is that I often hand out hygiene products; every ninety days, clients can receive basic hygiene items from Helpline. Thankfully, there are other organizations in Walla Walla, too, who help disperse hygiene products.

Some days seem to be busier than average, but regardless, there is always something to do. During downtime, I take the time to stock the hygiene closet. Usually, there are hangers that need to be gathered and counted after people take clothes, and in turn, more clothes need to be hung in the back room so that they can be put out in the morning. I also ensure to vacuum, clean, and sanitize areas that are frequently touched. Additionally, I check to make sure that bread is put out regularly and to fill the milk jugs that have been made into plastic bag containers, as well as stock the necessary forms at each desk. The best part about interning at Helpline is the amazing people that I meet every day.

Experiences like Darlene Harris’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez

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