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Volunteer Spotlight: Elyse


Meet Elyse Keefer, Women’s Services Intern

Elyse is a senior in the Social Work program at Mount Mercy University, and she’s been at CMC since January for her advanced placement internship in the Women’s Services program. Elyse says, “Coming to Catherine McAuley, I was really interested in learning more about transitional housing programs and learning more about the population that is served in this area through that. I was just really interested in Women’s Services as well, because I’ve always wanted to work with women.”

In her role at CMC, Elyse says, ”I have been doing a little bit of everything in Women’s Services and kind of just learning about what each staff member does, and what those positions look like.” Also working with residents, Elyse has been able to observe case management sessions and she’s participated in some of the therapeutic and skill-building groups.

She even started co-facilitating a Bible study group. “The residents kind of expressed that it was something they were interested in doing. I’m a double major in theology and religious studies, so I’ve been able to incorporate that part of my major into my work here as well, which has been really cool.”

Volunteering at CMC and working in the community has been a great way for Elyse to get to know people. “I’m definitely a people person, so having the opportunity to meet new people and get out of my comfort zone a bit has been awesome,” she says. She has enjoyed getting to know the residents and hearing more about their stories, perspectives, and experiences.

“I would say the most rewarding thing has just been getting to know the residents and it’s been very powerful. An experience that has come with a lot of humility because just hearing about the incredible stories of these women who have come so far, and who have each come from a different perspective but have all been through so much, seeing how strong and how dedicated they are to their own recovery, it’s just really inspiring.”

In connecting with residents, Elyse has appreciated the opportunity to empower women and lift them up. She says she’s been able to “get to know them and show there are people who care for you here, and there are resources that are available, and it’s our privilege to be working with you.”

Upon graduation this May, she’s exploring different opportunities through Mercy Volunteer Corps (a Sisters of Mercy organization with placements around the country, similar to AmeriCorps) and also exploring career paths with various service agencies in this area and closer to home in Illinois.

Reflecting on her educational journey, Elyse shares, “My time at school in Cedar Rapids has been really important to me, so being able to give back to this community has been really cool.” She also adds, “It’s kind of a lot of give and take, because throughout all of this, I’m learning so much and I’m gaining different skills and getting to experience so many things, but it’s also a great opportunity for me to give back and to be able to give of my time and give of my different things that I’ve been learning in school.”

Thank you, Elyse!