Volunteering is an integral part of society. It helps ensure that essential public services are provided, builds social capital and fosters cohesive communities all while benefiting the volunteer as well by giving them opportunities to acquire new skills, have sense of purpose and integrate them into their community. I encourage everyone to find some volunteer activity to do at least once a month. It doesn’t need to be formal either. It could be as simple as raking your elderly neighbors leaves, helping someone learn to read, or offering to provide a professional service or trade that you are skilled in at no cost. Former President Clinton said in his book Giving, “Almost everyone – regardless of income, available time, age, and skills – can do something useful for others and, in the process, strengthen the fabric of our shared humanity.” How true he was.
On Day 277 I was volunteering at So Others Might Eat (SOME), an organization that has impressed me tremendously. For 40 years they have been feeding and clothing DC’s homeless and poor, treating the ill in their medical, dental and mental health programs, training individuals for jobs and housing those in need.
It was a Friday morning and I was volunteering in their dining room. They serve breakfast and lunch to a couple hundred people in a short span of time so things need to be done quickly and efficiently.
This is where today’s recipient comes in. In addition to being the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, Michelle also is the Dining Room Manager. In other words, while I am working in the dining room, she is my boss. And let me tell you, she makes the place run. She knows when not to take crap from someone but also knows when someone just needs a hug. I even saw her take a minute to dance a little to the music that was playing and she’s got some moves!
Born in DC General Hospital, Michelle grew up in PG County. She went to Largo High School and went on to study cosmetology. But then things changed. “I got into drugs and alcohol and let them override my education,” she explained. “I was in and out of treatment, in and out of jail. It was not a good situation.” She became sober on October 16th, 2002 – same sobriety anniversary as Bob! She worked a few jobs but really wanted to work at SOME. “I applied and then was calling, calling, calling you know and I finally got the job!”
Michelle has three grown children and a grandchild. She now lives on Capitol Hill, owns a vehicle and has a steady job that she enjoys. “I am grateful for so many things.”
Michelle, who turns 48 in less than two weeks, says that it’s the little things that make her day. “You know, sometimes people will come up to me and say ‘thank you, you helped me so much’ and that means a lot to me.” She gets to know some of their guests very well. “I’ve been to funeral services for some of them…in fact I’m going to one today.”
She’s a people person. “I think I’m funny,” she says with a smile. She is and has a great smile, but she can be tough too. “We don’t tolerate disrespect or disruptive behavior here.” Just then a guest walks by and asks her a question. She greeted them by saying, “Hello friend, what can I do for you?” She calls everyone “friend.” Michelle is one of those people that define the organization’s culture. Weak organizations, especially service related organizations, lack people like Michelle.
The ten dollars I gave her would be spent on something small for herself. “I’m going to be good to myself!” She said she might get a sub from Subway.
If you are in the DC area and need a good place to volunteer, check out SOME. Why not get a bunch of your friends or coworkers together and set up a day for you all to go and volunteer together. More details on how you can help can be found here.So Others Might Eat (SOME) 71 ‘O’ Street, NW Washington, DC 20001 Phone: 202.797.8806 www.some.org