“From a conversation, you are never sure what’s going to happen,” said Jane McCabe, volunteer coordinator for Bethany House of Nassau County, which runs three emergency shelters and two transitional homes for single women and women with children.
McCabe, 66, of Rockville Centre, who is married and has two grown children, began volunteering at Bethany House in 2011, two years after leaving a 30-year career at a trade journal. Volunteering to bake cakes, set the dinner table and help babysit children one night a week offered McCabe an opportunity to listen to personal stories, helping her “understand the women and children better and see what they needed.”
After in-shelter volunteering was suspended as a pandemic precaution in 2020, McCabe still wanted to contribute. “I posted about volunteer opportunities often on the local RVC Moms Facebook page, and as a result people often contacted me and asked how they can help,” she said. Aware of McCabe’s social networking savvy, Bethany House hired her as a part-time volunteer coordinator in 2020.
As COVID-19 cases waned in the summer of 2021, volunteers returned and now number about 55 regular volunteers, she said. Nowadays she’s fielding inquiries from about 50 prospective volunteers each month. McCabe said she will “size up what they like to do, what they can do and what we need them to do.”
Among her fans is Ryan King, 16, a member of South Side High School’s Bethany Buddies, a student club. Ryan said he felt “terrified” on the first day he volunteered until McCabe “made me feel welcome.”
“She walked me in, and basically she showed me around the house and introduced me to everyone, which made me feel more at home,” Ryan said.
Volunteers also include Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, college students, and about 100 individuals and organizations, McCabe said. For her efforts at Bethany House, McCabe was recognized as a 2019 Woman of Distinction at a New York State Capitol ceremony.
“Bethany House has been around since 1978 and is very well known in the surrounding neighborhoods,” said McCabe. That, along with McCabe’s people skills, has yielded unusual donations: fresh-baked cupcakes, free hairstyle makeovers for the women, and a 55-inch smart TV.
“The residents are loving it,” McCabe said of the TV. “And it all came from a phone call.”