Meet Mary Jo, a dedicated volunteer at Exodus Refugee. Mary Jo can often be found working at the front desk, taking calls, answering questions, and helping clients reach the staff member or resource they’re looking for.
Mary Jo is recently retired after 34 years at Eli Lilly, where she worked in a variety of technical and leadership roles in their diabetes team. Her husband is also recently retired and with 3 children in their 20s, she “was seeking to pursue new ways to give back to the community.” She had been involved in refugee resettlement through her church some years ago, and now had time to reengage. Her son serves in the US Army on deployment overseas, so when the US announced the withdrawal and evacuation from Afghanistan, and that nearby Camp Atterbury was one of eight nationwide sites taking evacuees, she “felt called to volunteer and found Exodus,” as a way to help locally.
Mary Jo’s volunteer experience has varied over the time since she started in November. “It’s been fascinating to learn about peoples’ stories and the resettlement processes,” she said. She finds it particularly rewarding “to connect people in the community who want to help” and “to help with those that need assistance resettling.” Beyond working the front desk, she also helps with organizing the clothing closet. “Indiana weather can be pretty cold so it’s important that people have proper clothes, shoes and outerwear.” She also has helped with housing set-ups. “It’s fun to get the ages of the kids and to personalize their bedroom with colors they like or donated books to make them feel safe and welcome.”
“Each day brings something new,” Mary Jo said. Through her volunteer experience, Mary Jo has been reminded of her own family’s journey to the US. Her grandmother often told her about trying to maintain traditions from her home country while embracing the culture of her new one. Because her family had help on their journey to the United States, Mary Jo thinks “this is a terrific way to pay that kindness forward.”
Mary Jo’s work at Exodus reminds her “that people from different places have similar human goals: family, safety, education, gainful employment, and community. A refugee’s journey can be so difficult, but their courage and resilience can be inspiring. It makes me appreciate the many good things in life, and it makes me proud of the generous outpouring of Hoosier hospitality.”
We are so grateful to have Mary Jo as one of our volunteers and thank her for everything she does to support Exodus. Next time you stop by, if you see Mary Jo at the front desk, be sure to say hello!