When Katie Shaneyfelt began volunteering with The Arc Jacksonville in October 2014 she had no idea it would be life changing.
She started as a Club Arc volunteer at The Arc Jacksonville’s Westside location, looking to fulfill volunteer hours needed for a course at Florida State College of Jacksonville.
Unlike previous volunteer experiences, once Katie completed her hours she continued to volunteer because she had fallen in love with the people. “I had never felt more at home. They became my best friends,” she said.
Katie’s passion led her to accept a grant-funded position with The Arc Jacksonville, where she was able to work hands-on with the agency’s volunteer program for a year. While in the position, her passion for working with adults with disabilities grew, leading her to change her major from Animation to Art Therapy.
“Before I was a part of The Arc Jacksonville, I struggled with what I wanted to do in life,” Katie said. Being around The Arc participants and staff has helped Katie realize she wants to do more than just create art. She wants to use art to help others and make a lasting impact on their life.
Katie was further inspired through her work with The Arc Jacksonville to pursue a Best Buddies chapter for FSCJ. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of Best Buddies, and I wanted to bring it to my college campus,” she said. Katie saw the Best Buddies project as a way to expand community advocacy for adults with disabilities.
When Katie’s grant-funded position ended in 2015, she continued her involvement with The Arc Jacksonville by becoming an AmeriCorps member. As a member she recruits additional AmeriCorps members and volunteers to serve throughout the agency. Her background with The Arc Jacksonville made her AmeriCorps experience more meaningful.
“If I hadn’t volunteered through Club Arc, I don’t think I would appreciate my AmeriCorps experience as much,” she said. Katie is inspired by the passion she shares with her fellow AmeriCorps members and values how involved they are in the program.
As Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” For Katie, volunteering did just that. What began as fulfilling a requirement for a college class quickly morphed into friendships, connections and opportunities and a career path.
“I never expected volunteering to turn into a job, or go past friendships,” said Katie. “I’ve come to value it more now that I can see the true impact.”