The OCP Blog

Featured Volunteer of the Month, Frances Holland

If you stumble, just smile and make it part of the dance.  -Author unknown

Everyone who walks into Our Community Place’s doors has unique story. This month, we share the story of an OCPerson who has suffered a lot throughout her life, and needless to say, she has tried to focus on remaining positive. Born in Washington, DC and raised in Louisa, VA (a town between Richmond and Charlottesville), our featured volunteer of the month was one of five children in her family. Mrs. Frances Holland’s father was a farmer. Her mother worked at a factory making children’s clothing. Frances spent most of her non-school time working with her father on the farm. She asks, “Have you ever tried baling hay on a hot summer day?” I told her yes. She said, “so you know.”

She always dreamed of working with her mom, making children’s clothes. After graduating high school in 1966, she joined her mom. At first, Mrs. Frances Holland wanted a car, a piece of land and a house. She got the first two. In 1969 she met the man who would become the father of her children. They married in 1972. She was only 23. Together, they were able to secure loans to build that dream house. Our featured volunteer of the month also wanted to mother two boys and two girls in her family, and she got them!

Fifteen years into her marriage, tragedy started knocking on her door. In 1987, she fell sick with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which went undiagnosed for two weeks in the hospital. She ended up in the hospital for two and a half months, and the syndrome left her paralyzed and unable to walk. Yet our feature volunteer was courageous. She believed she would be able to dance again. She says, “I felt like a baby. I couldn’t move anything below my stomach. I found myself crawling around.” Her strength and will to recover lifted her out of that sinkhole. After a hard and long stretch of therapy, she regained her capacity to walk but remained unable to work. She could do small jobs and cook for her family, though her husband was the main support for the family. The marriage was strained.

He fell sick in 2012, and she promised him she would take care of him no matter what. He ended up passing away in 2014, leaving her with only a small amount to pay off the mortgage on their home that she couldn’t pay. So, she was forced to leave it all behind.

When she first walked into OCP she felt so much energy going on that it was overwhelming. After a while, OCPeople started making her feel like she was home. “It was a home away from home,” she said. When she was voted into community membership, becoming a community member felt like an accomplishment based on the work she put in and the volunteer hours she put in. She felt good to belong to something. “OCP makes you feel wanted, makes you feel good about yourself.”

Leons Kabongo

Programming & Activities Coordinator