Why do you volunteer your time specifically with this organization?
My sister and brother-in-law initially got me involved, and I felt compelled as a woman to help a women-only shelter. I was sold after my first time volunteering, and decided that I really wanted to help feed those who were in the shelter, and hopefully make them smile. I also wanted to come up with a better meal plan instead of the mundane meals they typically have. When we are volunteering, we really strive to make it a more pleasurable experience and not just about food. We play music, we sometimes sing, and generally show them some attention and affection they otherwise would not have. I find it very rewarding.
With regard to the meals, we have the option to bring ingredients and make the food there, or bring something already prepared. The coordinators let us know ahead of time how many people are expected, and someone in the group will coordinate with the on-site staff to bring whatever is needed.
I join in with several members of my family, including my mother and siblings and their extended families—we go quarterly and try to involve more family members even if we are alternating. We are handling various tasks, including serving, doing dishes, cleanup, plating, etc.; there are a variety of options for different likes/dislikes.
Does this organization affect Baltimore as a whole?
From what I understand, they have anywhere from 60-120 women at a time. They aim to provide shelter for a time, a warm meal three times a day, and a sense of community. This helps an underserved population in Baltimore to get back on their feet. I see a lot of the same faces and understand the reality that their day-to-day lives have not changed much; however, knowing that they will not spend one day with a meal (or three) is really what it is all about.
What is your favorite memory of working with this organization?
The first time we served the women fried chicken, greens and biscuits! Many of the women were so happy and grateful, and told us that it was like “Christmas” for them. I was so moved that I cried. On an ordinary day, they don’t always give acknowledgments, so I knew that this was the way to go for our team in providing future meals.
If you could do one thing to change the organization for the better, what would it be?
Encourage more people to volunteer. The organization is often faced with a problem when volunteers who were scheduled to prepare/bring food and serve a breakfast, lunch or dinner, do not call or show up for their slot. The lovely women who help run the shelter end up staying longer hours to accommodate food prep and service. Having a large pool of reliable volunteers who are truly committed would really go a long way.