Meet Melissa Reif
PADS Shelter Volunteer
PADS Lake County is fortunate to have the support of over 3,000 incredible volunteers who make our work possible. We caught up with Melissa Reif, a shelter volunteer at Saint Mary of Vernon in Vernon Hills, to learn more about her experiences volunteering her time to support our neighbors experiencing homelessness.
What inspired you to become a PADS volunteer?
I was introduced to PADS about 24 years ago when my daughter was involved in the Lake County fair. We were looking for a volunteer opportunity for the girls to participate in. Back then the girls could assemble lunches for the organization and we had a couple of coat drives. We were able to explain to the girls that some of our Lake County residents did not have food for every meal or places to sleep.
Please share a little about your experience with PADS.
As my children grew, 3 boys and 1 girl, we participated in PADS by collecting coats or occasionally fulfilling service requirements at the facilities. I was very busy with school volunteering , sports and other children’s needs that my direct hours with PADS was short of what I would have liked. As they became adults, I went back to volunteering at the overnight facilities on a more regular basis. My one son and I spent some nights on the 11:00 pm to 3:00 am shift. Mostly I worked the dinner shifts because I really enjoy interacting with our clients.
What is one thing that surprised you to learn about PADS?
It’s interesting to learn that over the years PADS has grown into a more full service organization; overnight shelters are just a part of what they do. Providing counseling and resources to help people (individuals and families) before they lose their residence or help with a plan to get back to independence is a BIG part of the program. I will always love how when our fellow Lake County residence in need choose to utilize the shelters, they are treated with the utmost respect and receive a night of nourishment, encouragement, socialization, sleeping beds and food for the next day.
Could you share a memorable experience you had as a volunteer?
I love slowly learning about the people that regular participate in our service; one client shared her story with me for a couple of years. She has a regular job, a phone and a car but she can’t afford rent too. She didn't always want to be relying on friends so she would sleep in her vehicle occasionally but loved to come to PADS for socialization especially on super cold nights. A medical crisis unfolded and put her in this position. She kept busy with hobbies like knitting and reading and is saving money and hopes to be on her own again shortly.
What do you do for fun outside of your volunteer role (most likely after shelter season!)?
I’m so blessed in this life. I have a wonderful husband of 33 years, 4 beautiful loving adult children now and I’m not working outside the home presently, so I’ve been able to visit family and friends in other states. We travel to experience other parts of the world. I love yoga and play tennis and enjoy quite a variety of exercise so I stay busy physically and try to share some wonderful things in my life with others.
Anything else you’d like to share?
“100 Women Who Care “ is another incredible organization that has allowed me (over the last several years) to learn about so many wonderful charities and organizations in Lake county. As a presenter can share your vetted charity of choice, one that means something to you. It’s been such an eye opener to me and others because we learn so much about these charities. At the end of our meetings, there is a vote on which one of the charities presented will receive the money that night. We as attendees, write a check for $100.00 that night and it goes to the one charity that was voted the winner. The other two charities will receive $ 500.00 each. PADS was a winner on my first presentation - which is what the photo above captures. This was very exciting to me.
Thank you so much, Melissa, for all that you do for our neighbors! Interested in joining Melissa and our other fantastic volunteers in their mission to support folks experiencing homelessness in Lake County? Check out our volunteer opportunities!
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