Janet Nellis is sitting in a third floor office at a computer, updating Catholic Charities volunteer profiles, making calls, getting background checks and loving every minute of it. As a former employee of Catholic Charities Head Start program, Nellis retired in 2014—but she saw a need and came back to help out.
Volunteering is a Calling
“I love Catholic Charities and my heart was broken when the volunteer coordinator, Carol Gastelum, passed away in August. There is so much that has to happen for volunteers to come on board, so I knew the volunteer department would need help. I felt a calling to come back,” said Nellis.
Now Nellis is filling in the gap to keep volunteers connected to programs and is a big advocate for volunteering.
“Volunteering is a learning experience,” said Nellis. “If you’re retired, it’s rewarding. You get to see what happens to make helping the vulnerable and why it works. We need volunteers. We can only grow Catholic Charities if we have volunteers, we can pay them with respect and dignity.”
As a former employee, Nellis worked with Catholic Charities Head Start program as a teacher and then as a manager. She left her position with the school district in the 1980s, because she wanted to prepare students for success.
“The kids in my public school classes were so far behind, because they didn’t speak English. They struggled to know what teachers were saying,” said Nellis. “In Head Start, my assistant and I would get a classroom of kids who were monolingual in Spanish in August. Between the two of us, by December, they were all bilingual at 4 and 5 years old. It really set them up to be successful in school.”
Volunteerism is Key to Making Head Start Work
After Nellis served as a teacher, she moved over to Head Start manager. One of her duties was working with volunteering parents—and that is where she met Carol. “Carol was my go to person,” said Nellis. “I was working on paperwork for fingerprinting, interviewing … and would work with Carol every day to coordinate these moving pieces. It was really important to get it done right, because volunteerism is key to making Head Start work. Carol and I became friends and worked hard together. In Carol’s absence, I’m putting in hours to help out.”
When Nellis isn’t volunteering, this Phoenix native is enjoying her retirement by doing a lot of outdoors hiking with her husband of 44 years and active in the lives of their three children. She’s an all-year gardener, who has plans to build raised beds in the upcoming year. She’s thinking of volunteering at Catholic Charities community garden in the fall where she can use her expertise to grow food for those who need it.
We thank Nellis for her generosity with her time and talents! And we invite you to join our more than 3,500 volunteers who work to help the vulnerable in our communities. Learn more about becoming a volunteer today!