There are many fun volunteer roles at Crossnore, but Director of Community Outreach, Kim King, says that the role of Cottage Sponsor may just be the best of all. “It’s probably my favorite role. You’re kind of like the grandparents of the cottage.”
What is a Cottage Sponsor?
A Cottage Sponsor can be an individual, couple, or small group that regularly invests in the lives of children in a certain cottage. On our Winston-Salem campus, we have several groups of friends who have teamed up to be Cottage Sponsors. We also have church small groups who are sponsors, and even a single individual who sponsors our Youth Independent Living cottage.
In Avery, we have a few DAR groups who sponsor, and several of our cottages are sponsored by couples. Community Outreach Coordinator, Elizabeth O’Hagan, says, “Some of these couples are retired, while others are still working. Some have grown children, some have young children, some have no children.” Whatever these sponsors may look like, they work together to make sure their cottage is encouraged and supported regularly.
A commitment to connection.
Becoming a Cottage Sponsor is not a role to be taken lightly. A sponsor commits to connecting with the cottage at least once a month. Connecting in person may include planning and “hosting” birthday parties in the cottage, helping children with homework regularly, hanging out with the cottage children on or off campus, hosting outings, and more.
It can be hard though. You may not get all the “thank yous” you deserve. You may work with brand new cottage parents who are still learning the ropes. It can be difficult, emotionally, when children come and go. But always, the children are worth your time and investment.
Elizabeth says, “The most successful relationships are a true collaboration between the volunteers, staff, and children.” No two cottage sponsors are the same. Some may be able to help finance the needs of a cottage, while others invest more of their time. “There is no ‘right’ way to be a sponsor other than to dedicate time to show love and support,” Elizabeth adds.
The Daniel Boone DAR chapter has sponsored one cottage on our Avery campus for years. When that cottage was temporarily closed for renovations, they agreed to fill in at another cottage. They have truly taken that cottage under their collective wing, providing eggs for Easter egg hunting, sidewalk chalk and bubbles for summer fun, and even came to clean and organize the playroom.
Another one of our Avery Cottage Sponsor couples attend the same church as their cottage. They are amazing supporters of each child, regularly attending school award ceremonies to cheer on “their” kids. They help the kids cook and make them birthday cakes. We often wonder who is more excited to see whom – the kids or the Cottage Sponsors.
Blessings all the way around.
The children aren’t the only ones who benefit from having their sponsors in their lives. The cottage parents are blessed too. “It’s great to see our Cottage Sponsors build relationships with the cottage parents and find out what they need,” says Kim. “They take care of the cottage parents just as much as they take care of the kids. And the cottage parents really look forward to them coming.” Elizabeth agrees. “I have seen amazing friendships between the Cottage Sponsor and the cottage parents. They often work together to plan special events and execute fabulous surprises. Some of these relationships have lasted years, with Sponsors working with the same cottage parents.”
Showing love in tangible ways.
Terry Nifong, a Winston-Salem cottage parent says, “We love our cottage sponsors so much! We have missed them greatly since the campus has been closed due to Coronavirus. When they were able to come, Ms. Jeremy, Ms. Anne, and Ms. Julie were always ready to help out and to bring some fun and sunshine into the cottage. These ladies have been so helpful to us and such a joy. Our sponsors bring fun activities for the kids to do with them, help with homework, do holiday activities, and attend birthday celebrations.”
“They are welcoming to new residents and cry with us when others leave. Our sponsorslways come in with smiles and roll with the all the hills and valleys that come with cottage life. They have sent cards and notes all through this period of separation and have reached out to us to see if there is anything we need or want in the cottage. The sponsors meet the kids on their levels and always take the time to listen to their stories. They are also very supportive of the cottage parents, always having words of encouragement and positivity. They provide a welcome “break” for us when they come (and sometimes treats, too!). We are able to cook dinner, finish chores, and just catch our breath while the children are having positive interactions and doing fun activities with these fabulous ladies. We love them!”
Arthur Cottage, on our Avery campus, agrees. “Our DAR sponsors and other volunteers are incredible! Even during Covid-19, when they cannot visit, they never forget a birthday or a holiday in our cottage! Many times, we get a box in the mail for the cottage that is “just because.” They email regularly and call to speak with the kids. They even send little surprises for the cottage parents too! Recently, one of our sponsors planted a sign in our front yard letting us know how much she misses visiting with us and letting us know how much she loves us!”
It takes a village.
Our Winston-Salem cottages have the sponsors they need at this time, but we still have vacancies on our Avery campus. “Sponsoring a cottage is an amazing way to show the children that they are loved and to offer support to the staff,” says Elizabeth. “‘It takes a village’ and our Cottage Sponsors are a vital part of our village. For those amazing people who are willing to take on the challenge, the rewards are bountiful.”
If you’d like to find out more about becoming part of our village as a Cottage Sponsor on our Avery campus, please contact Elizabeth O’Hagan at firstname.lastname@example.org.