Meet Etta Martin, our new Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator and an AmeriCorps member

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

This month, our Volunteer Spotlight section features a new staff member we'd like you to know. Since starting at Housing Forward recently, Etta has really hit the ground running. With a leadership position open on the volunteer program team, the learning curve has been steep, but she’s proving to be up for it.

Etta isn’t a newcomer to Housing Forward. She came with connections to the cy. Her daughter Ebony is one of our Street Outreach Specialists and her church, Rock of Ages in Maywood, provides a PADS Emergency Shelter meal team. Retired after working 21 years in the Special Education Department at Oak Park and River Forest High School, Etta signed on as an AmeriCorps member because as she says, “Life has been so good, I wanted to pay it forward.” Plus, Ebony kept talking about the meaningful work she was doing with the homeless population, and Etta saw an opportunity to be as useful as she had been at the high school.

As a self-professed “people person” Etta fits right in with an easy smile and rapport with co-workers. Her ability to work with OPRFHS staff to advocate for students translates well when working with staff and volunteers on behalf of our clients. Even after a short time with us, she’s discovering where the open opportunities are, and doing what she can to address them. Her main focus will be reaching out to community groups to educate about and promote the work we do, building relationships, and generating volunteers to fill specific needs.

The athletic coaches at the high school were inspirational to Etta as the reason she believes so strongly in the value of teamwork motivating people to overcome difficult situations. In her years working among a varied student population, she learned first-hand how much adversity people face – often quietly -- and how important it can be to avoid prejudgment. Particularly in situations of hardship, she came to know that sometimes those who need the most support, ask for it the least. “Often people don’t get the help they need because we get embarrassed or don’t recognize the signs,” says Etta. “We need to learn to take it in stride and meet people where they are, order to help them better.”

Etta’s year of service overlaps with Cleo Smith’s until Cleo’s AmeriCorps term ends at the end of the year. If you have volunteer-related questions, don’t hesitate to contact them at etmartin@housingforward.org and 708.338.1724 ext. 220 or volunteer@housingforward.org and 708.338.1724 ext. 313, respectively.