Martha Wight, Volunteer and PR Specialist

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Wight helps in Catholic Charities, community

Martha Wight coordinates volunteers to help survivors.

Martha Wight helps keep things humming at the Catholic Charities Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault program and its local shelter. As volunteer and public relations specialist, Wight recruits and trains volunteers and helps them and agency clients get involved at the shelter.

The 26-bed facility shelters an average of 13 clients and 13 children per month, she said. The average stay is 30 days, but there is no time limit. Residents receive help finding their own housing.

The organization has a pool of 30 to 40 volunteers, Wight said. The Catholic Diocese of Des Moines does a background check on all employees and volunteers.

“They become a victim counselor at the end of this 30-hour training,” she said.

Some put in shifts answering the shelter’s 24-hour crisis line, while others help with smaller tasks, like sorting donations, Wight said.

“At Christmas, we have elves that come in and wrap presents,” she said. “Businesses will come in and donate their time.”

Stockings, decorations and shoeboxes of useful items for clients are prepared, toys are donated and Santa Claus makes his annual appearance.

Wight feels like she’s making a difference and “working with a great group of women who are dedicated to a mission of empowering individuals and strengthening families.”

One volunteer recruited her daughter, mother and a family friend to volunteer at the shelter, she said.

Wight’s recruiting efforts take her beyond the shelter to volunteer fairs at colleges and other venues.

In an ongoing project launched three or four years ago, the women raise a garden each year and donate produce harvested to the communal kitchen, Wight said.

“I have a volunteer who’s a Master Gardener, and we plan it, we plant it,” she said. “The women and children are very excited about it. They get to see things grow. The idea is to get clients and children involved in that and picking their own vegetables. It’s great.”

Wight works with volunteers to keep supplies on hand and works with residents in the garden, she said. She also co-facilitates daily classes and speaks to businesses and organizations about the program and its mission.

The shelter has added a reading program in collaboration with Raise Me to Read, Wight said. Books are donated by agencies and businesses, including some printed in Spanish.

“We have volunteers who come in and read to the children,” she said. “We worked very closely with Nancy Schulze (executive director of Raise Me to Read) to get this implemented here. Raise Me to Read suggested books for different levels.”

A University of Nebraska-Omaha student who was volunteering at the shelter helped get it going, Wight said.

Wight learned a sense of service while growing up in Enid, Oklahoma, the seventh of eight children (three girls and five boys).

“My mom had me stuffing envelopes when I was a little kid, so this has been in my blood for a long time,” she said.

Wight started working in her father’s family medicine clinic when she was 13. He had earned his medical degree at Creighton University School of Medicine.

“All of us who were girls worked in Dad’s office eventually,” she said. “Before that, I was candy striping and baby-sitting.”

Since then, Wight has worked in information technology, taught math, tutored students in math and worked in everything from service to manufacturing at Nokia.

Martha in australia

“My hope, when I retire, is to go into coral restoration,” she said.

Wight became an avid scuba diver after getting trained at DiVentures and working her way up to Master Diver. She has been on scuba-diving excursions in Mexico, Thailand, the Galapagos Islands and other exotic places.

“I’ve been all over the world,” she said. “Cozumel, Mexico, has consistently the best water. Clear — you can see down to 100 feet.”

Diving is a love Wight expects to last for the rest of her life.

“I plan on doing this as long as I can strap a tank on my back,” she said.

Closer to home, Wight is an avid bicyclist. She enjoys cycling on city trails and plans to ride in a cancer fundraiser in June.

In case you’re wondering, yes, she does work out at the Y every day.

“There’s so much of life out there that you just go for it,” she said.

To contact Martha to donate or volunteer at the shelter, email mwight@catholiccharitiesdm.org.

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