Circles Honors Volunteer Month: All-Star Volunteers, Pt. 2

A Circles USA chapter supports many volunteers who are the hands and feet of our organization: they give of their time generously by providing intentional friendships, meals, childcare, administrative support, resources, and connections by serving on a Resource Team, becoming an Ally, or offering up any other creative capacity the chapters could use. Our Circles volunteers are essential as we are building community to end poverty.

This national Volunteer Month, Circles is proud to recognize the outstanding contributions of our thoughtful and dedicated volunteers by sharing testimonials from their peers. Whether in response to our call for Outstanding Volunteer nominations or just giving a little shine on social media, our network didn’t hesitate to sing their volunteers’ praises! 

Here, in nominators’ own words, are a few of the bright stars who make up our CUSA volunteer community of practice.

Billie Dodson (Circles in Columbus, GA)

Nominated by Barbara Moushon, Circles in Columbus Coordinator

“Billie [center] retired over 20 years ago and has been a volunteer with Circles in Columbus for nearly 10 years. She is our “KITCHEN QUEEN”! She is here every week unless on a mission trip. While we are fortunate to have most meals donated, if we have an uncovered night, Billie will make a special trip to review what she had saved in our freezer…. She will also stop at the store and bring in other things to supplement the meal. She is the hostess for all of our meal providers and makes certain every need is taken care of. In addition to cleaning our Circles ‘mess,’ she will scrub whatever she can while she is here.  

Billie’s most generous gift of time comes whenever we have a graduation celebration. She arrives hours early to place fabric tablecloths on all the tables and has boxes of very special items to decorate the table. She provided the following, which we use at the closing of each celebration (everything on your table has a meaning!):

  • Tablecloths cover scratches and marks…just as we cover our scars.
  • Glasses are made of sand, which under high heat and pressure becomes clear glass.  We experience high stress and pressure but then transform ourselves with new skills.
  • Candles shine through the glass, representing the light of knowledge and the light you project.
  • Strings of Pearls: Pearls are precious and made from a single grain of sand that was actually an irritant to a living oyster. The oyster sent secretions to cover the grain of sand to ease the pain. It takes a long, long, time for the sharp pain to ease, and this irritant eventually becomes a beautiful gem. Just as the oyster eases its own pain, ultimately creating a beautiful gem—so do you. Your efforts are making you a shining gem. 

We are just like the table decorations: We gain new knowledge that helps us shine, and we become more valuable and precious with every challenge we take. Everyone here is beautifully made and we become more brilliant with your efforts to overcome your challenges.

It takes hours, even days for Miss Billie to recover from these events.  The huge fabric table coverings must be washed and laid out for days on beds in her home to dry and be pressed.  Each candle and glass item (there are several on each table) are carefully wrapped.  We try to help as we repack at the end of the night, but I have a feeling that she redoes each one. She cares for everyone and makes certain there are to-go plates for any late arrivals, then secures the rest for our future meals. Billie is our rock!”

Erica Lattanzio (Circles NWA, AR)

Nominated by Christina WIlliams, Founder & Executive Director, Innovative Poverty Solutions/ Circles NWA

“Erica L is our Big View Co-Chair. She has been with us from almost the beginning and is a fierce advocate for our community. She has helped shape our various community education events, she shows up for calls with the city even though she works full-time, she goes with Circle Leaders to city council or quorum court meetings, and she always holds the Circle Leader’s leadership as the highest priority. She is a super-volunteer in all ways!”


Washtenaw Community Team (Circles Washtenaw County, MI)

Nominated by Tracey Hoesch, Circles Director of Washtenaw County

“I’d like to nominate the Circles Washtenaw County Community Team. They are a small and dedicated group of volunteers that keep our large group fed every Tuesday night, and they do it with a cheerful attitude and a loving spirit. They create a safe and welcoming environment for our Circle Leaders, families and volunteers; and even though most of their work is behind the scenes, their gracious presence is felt every week.”

Mateja Lund (Circles Salt Lake, UT)

Nominated by Kelli Parker, Circles Salt Lake Volunteer Coordinator

“Mateja is the Chair of our Big View team. She is not only passionate about the mission of this team but she is a leader. She came onto this team and ran with our ideas. She recently has moved out of state but continues to serve as the Chair and conducts our monthly Zoom meetings, set up our Big View nights and is diligent in moving the needle.”

Renee Frye (Circles Hilton Head, SC) 

Nominated by Shavonne Vasquez (Circles Hilton Head Coach) and Circles HH team

“Renee’s been on the Children’s Team as a lead teacher since we launched our chapter in January of 2023. [She] continues to impress us with her willingness to support the Circles initiative and remains committed to the work she does. By coincidence, the group of children Renee works with every week is the busiest group in our program. In addition to typical challenges expected within their age range, the group has faced a number of obstacles in maintaining a climate hospitable to learning. Contributing factors include behavioral, developmental, and even what some may perceive as trauma-induced physiological responses. Overall Renee manages a classroom filled with very impressionable children, and she does a fantastic job keeping them safe.

Renee promotes a safe and functional environment by taking all reasonable precautions to protect these vulnerable children. She has always demonstrated sensitivity to the cultural diversity within the group and continues to promote a welcoming space. Many parents have admitted they return from week to week because they recognize the positive impact programing has had on their children. One mother said, ‘I don’t know what they’re doing back there but my kids absolutely love coming here.’ We are so pleased to say that what Renee is ‘doing back there’ really matters.”

Nike Peterson (Circles Davis County, UT)

Nominated by Lamont Hampton, Circles Coach for Family Connection Center/Circles Davis County

“Councilwoman Nike Peterson began her journey with Circles Davis County in 2016 and has been a vital piece [of] our Big View Team. From taking families up to the capital to advocating for low-income families, Nike has gone above and beyond!! She has kicked off a 6-month Big View plan, and that plan has monthly topics [like] ‘Using Your Voice,’ where she encourages Circle leaders and the community to use their voice to make change; how and where to use our voices; implementing a plan and executing it, etc. She has also brought an elected official to show us how to express ourselves when speaking with elected officials. The final piece of this Big View is to get Cliff Effects on the bill.”

Read Part 1 of our All-Star Volunteers series on our blog.

Watch outstanding Circles volunteers at work in their home chapter in our recently released Weekly Meeting Virtual Tour Video.Click the donate to Circles USA button and help us celebrate 25 years of
extraordinary volunteers building community to end poverty!