Home Issue | Spring 2018

Page 42


heroes STORY BY Lorraine Cannistra


LM sp18


LAURA CARSON When Laura Carson moved to Lawrence, she was starting a job as a pharmacist and looking to give back to the community. “I wanted to do something that enabled me to stretch and grow, but because of my job I wanted to stay away from anything in the medical field.” She found her niche at the Lawrence Community Shelter, where she volunteers as the head of the Move Out Program. In this role, Carson helps former shelter guests assemble furniture and supplies when they are ready to move into an apartment. Carson is able to tap the shelter’s warehouse of donated items, but sometimes she must get creative. She has searched for goods on Craigslist and emailed the sellers. After she explains who she is and what she does, she asks, “If this item doesn’t sell, would you consider donating it to the shelter?” Often the person is more than willing to donate the item. Jenny Robinson, a case manager at the shelter, says Carson’s work frees the staff to focus on other areas of the shelter’s mission. “It used to be that when a guest was ready to move out of the shelter, I would have to spend a week with them coordinating everything and helping them transition into their new home. These days, I pass everything on to Laura and she takes it from there. And I don’t worry. Laura treats all of our guests with dignity and respect,” Robinson says. “Because Laura does what she does for the shelter, I am able to concentrate on who is next on the waiting list.” Carson explains that she, in turn, is motivated by the people she assists. “There is a misconception,” Carson notes, “that people who are homeless are lazy and they don’t do anything. Our guests work so hard to change their circumstances and that makes me want to work hard for them.” Carson encourages Lawrencians to tour the shelter and meet some of the guests. “These are members of our community. If young people want to volunteer, there are always kids around to play with. Any respite for the parents at the shelter is a huge gift. If you can’t help out in a huge way, do something small. It’s easier to keep doing the right thing once you get started.”