Lisa Otis, volunteer and donations coordinator

A volunteer’s offer of transportation one afternoon changed Lisa Otis’ life. Lisa now works as volunteer and donations coordinator for Passage Home, a community development corporation in Wake County. But eight years ago, Lisa went from a middle-class lifestyle with a house, cars, a good job and “not even a speeding ticket” to spending eight months in prison. Lisa’s life had unraveled in a short time after a series of bad decisions while experiencing domestic violence and her husband’s drug abuse.

Lisa became a client of Passage Home, which works with many groups of people at risk, including ex-offenders. Upon release from prison she was taken to a furnished home with lights on and a welcome basket waiting. Having a place ready to live in “takes away the weight of all the things you know you have to fix,” she said.

For six months, Lisa looked for a job to support her two daughters, then ages 6 and 2.  “Monday through Friday, nine to five, my job was looking for a job. I was either on the computer or in my suit pounding the pavement,” Lisa said. “At the end of six months, I was exhausted.” Desperate and ready to give up, Lisa called her case manager. Her case manager reminded her, “There’s your time and there’s God’s time.”

The next day, Lisa got a call from a Web design company. “They wanted to interview me right before the time my daughter got off her school bus,” Lisa said.  “I was frantic.” She informed her case manager, who found a volunteer willing to drive her to and from the interview.

Lisa remembers the volunteer picking her up on a hot August day. “She sat in her car – I don’t know if she had air conditioning or not – for quite awhile. She drove me home. I had just enough time to run get my flip flops and pick up my daughter from the school bus,” Lisa said. Lisa got the job. She started out making $9 an hour as a receptionist and was promoted three times that year.

Much later, Lisa looked across the room at a church function and recognized the woman who had volunteered to drive her to the interview. “At the end of the meeting, she came over and gave me a hug,” Lisa said. “We both got emotional. She never would have thought a ride to a job interview would be so instrumental in my job process.”

Passage Home looks for volunteers in a number of areas, including driving single parents on errands, offering basic computer training, preparing meals, leading group activities and mentoring children. For more information, contact Peg Cavender at peg.cavender@gmail.com or 919-985-5950.