What About Bob?

Kerry Reifel Volunteer Stories

Retired Scientist Brings Compassion and Creativity to Covey Youth

Bob Winfree first came to Covenant House several months ago to offer a landscape painting workshop for our youth, but soon signed up to volunteer each week in our art room. He is a retired National Parks scientist and research manager who settled in Alaska about twenty years ago with his family. Bob took up visual arts after retiring, including painting, photography and magazine production.

Though Bob’s education and work experience did not center around youth who have experienced significant trauma, he seems to inherently know what our youth need in a given moment, and how to interact with them in ways that help them to let their guard down, relax and be creative. In a short time, Bob became one of our favorite volunteers, and a favorite of our youth as well.

“Bob just understands,” says Radmila Moon, one of CHA’s Youth Activities Specialists “He knows when to engage with youth and when to give them space. Even our youth who might have a hard time taking instruction from men due to experiences in their childhood come to me later asking when Bob will be back. And he is consistent. He is here every week, and our youth know they can count on that, which is just so important.”

In addition to working in our art room, Bob has hosted budgeting workshops for youth at our Covey Academy and Rights of Passage programs, and workshops showcasing careers that young people can get into without a college degree. He takes great care in preparing how to demonstrate concepts to young people and, when videos can be incorporated, he looks for those hosted by people of color so as to provide diverse perspectives.

“As I’ve gotten to know the youth who come to the art room,” says Bob, “our discussions and small talk, some of which is quite profound, is at times worth a lot more than the art skills they learn. The art just gives them something to do while they’re talking. In the first few weeks, youth would come into the art room and sit at the far table but now, youth come in and fill the seats at my table first.”

Like CHA, Bob has a personal mission. He cares about what kind of world his grandchildren will inherit. He says, “Working in the art room is not what I’d planned on when I applied to volunteer at Covey, but that’s ok. I’ve come to realize that I am more at peace when helping others than I am when I’m thinking about myself.”

We are so grateful for our volunteers at Covenant House Alaska, who show our youth every day that their community cares for them.