Volunteer Q&A: Harriet Shares the Importance of Volunteering

Our wonderful volunteers are integral to everything that we do at the Letters Foundation. Every week, they donate precious time and invaluable skills to help make our grant-making possible.

Harriet has volunteered with the Letters Foundation since September 2017. She began volunteering with the Letters Foundation as an Operations Volunteer, where she provided administrative support around the office such as scanning letters and application materials. She also helped us launch our first cohort of Application Specialists in January 2018. Harriet currently supports our Letter Readers, who use Doris’ criteria to review each initial letter and determine which clients to move forward in the grant process.

Volunteerism and nonprofits have been important cornerstones of Harriet’s life. For roughly 35 years, Harriet has been involved with nonprofit organizations, including Rosie’s Place and  Pine Street Inn. Harriet was able to make a huge impact with Paul Sullivan Housing Trust by helping to develop a working model and implement the program.

Damaris and Anna, our summer interns, asked Harriet about her experience as a volunteer with the Letters Foundation:


Q. Why is volunteering important to you?

A. “I have a really strong feeling that if everyone in this country volunteered, we’d have a very different country. I’ve volunteered since I was fifteen, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I love having the opportunity to touch a life in some way.”

Q. What is a fun fact about your role with the Letters Foundation?

A. “When people ask me what I do, I tell them that I give Warren and Doris Buffett’s money away. I love their faces when I say that. It’s everyone’s dream, it really is. Especially to give it to people that need it.”

Q. What is one piece of advice you would give to a new Letters Foundation volunteer?

A. “I would tell them to stop and listen. There’s an incredible depth of knowledge, and it comes from so many different places. It’s not my strength to stop and listen! I tend to want to jump in. But I have pulled myself back and listened, and it’s taught me so much.”

Q. What is one thing you’d like to tell Doris?

A. “She is a very brave woman to do something like this. You’re exposing yourself, and you’re out there trying to do something good, and not everybody does that. I admire her strength and her courage to do something like this. She offers a hand to people in need.”

Q. What is your favorite part about volunteering with the Letters Foundation?

A. “My favorite part is talking with clients and being able to interact with them. Without exception, every one of them is so thankful that we read their letters. It means everything to them. They feel noticed. People get used to being ignored and denied, and that’s not a good thing. When they hear me say that we are reading their letters, it’s relief I hear in their voice.”


It is important to us at the Letters Foundation that our clients feel heard. Harriet estimates she has made “a thousand phone calls” to those experiencing hard times and are in need of a helping hand. Our goal – every letter read – would not be possible without the work of volunteers like Harriet, and we are so grateful for all that our volunteers do!

Letters Foundation volunteer, Harriet, with some of our favorite canine office friends.