In addition to her role as Willow Valley Communities’ Manager of Resident Services, Cori Steiner is also chair of the Community Outreach Committee. This committee, made up of Willow Valley Communities Team Members, coordinates three giving events annually: Sneakers for School, Cornhole for a Cause, and the Holiday Gift-Giving Project. The committee’s work helps thousands of children through several Lancaster-area organizations, making a real difference in their lives.
But as much as their work helps others, Cori also sees how much the act of giving enhances the well-being of those helping. “For our Residents, being part of engaging the community gives a sense of belonging. Our Residents come from all walks of life, and being involved in the Lancaster area and being part of its future makes a lasting impact on those they serve as well as themselves. Although the Residents are the ones giving, they often thank us for the opportunity to help shape the future of the next generation.”
The Community Outreach Committee started in 1998, and their first project was purchasing Christmas gifts for foster and protective-service children in Lancaster County. That effort grew, and today the annual Holiday Gift-Giving Project Party is a wonderful celebration for children and their families, providing them with hundreds of practical gifts. Other annual events soon followed: Sneakers for School provides hundreds of pairs of new sneakers and socks to children for their first day of school, and Cornhole for a Cause raises money to help high school seniors take their next steps toward long-term success after graduation.
Willow Valley Communities Residents and Team Members work together closely for these events — collecting, wrapping, shopping, and serving — to make each one a meaningful success for all. Willow Valley Communities clubs and organizations help, too, by donating their time and talents with special projects. Cori says that because Willow Valley Communities Residents come from a wide variety of backgrounds and geographical regions across the country, the committee benefits from a varied wealth of experience and ideas.
Resident Carol Giersch is a retired teacher and school administrator who currently volunteers as a Student Mentor for the School District of Lancaster (SDoL). She loved being a teacher and always relished in the challenge of using her creativity to build a program where one did not exist. “Starting off with ‘Wait — there’s another way to teach that’ just fills my soul with joy,” she states. Carol agrees that her sense of well-being is enhanced through volunteering. “There’s no better feeling,” she says, “to truly know that God placed me here for a reason.”
Carol adds that there are many people at Willow Valley Communities who have worked as mentors with Lancaster students. When virtual learning was the norm, some Willow Valley Communities Residents, such as Lynn Andrews, Cheryl Reid, Tom Connelly, and Tom and Cathy Newell, joined her in continuing to mentor SDoL children. All Willow Valley Communities mentors have had rich, full careers and wish to share their talents with others, especially with younger generations.
Cori is grateful for all the support she receives from Willow Valley Communities Residents and Team Members — but she’s really not surprised. “This is our culture at Willow Valley Communities,” she explains. “We serve and we help any way we can.”