At least a foot of standing water covered a prior volunteer project at Midland Open Door’s Women and Children’s Shelter.
All of the plans and materials I had gathered were wasted thanks to an overnight summer downpour.
I contacted the volunteer group’s leader with a heavy heart.
“The river trail is completely flooded,” I told her. “We can’t work on it today.”
But then our volunteer had an idea. She called up her team and told them to go out and purchase knee-high galoshes and wear clothing they didn’t care about. The group showed up fully prepared to work and dug into the project, laying down boards and solving problems that I didn’t even know how to approach.
At Midland’s Open Door, our volunteers are critical to the work we do. With two crisis shelters and a soup kitchen spread across two campuses, we cannot do this work alone. We have a small, specialized team that serves the needs of homeless, hungry and hurting full-time, but the magnitude and reach of impact comes from our extraordinary volunteers.
It takes you, it takes me, and families, church groups, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, teachers and students, sports teams, employee resource groups, retirees, and folks who work all week long just to stop by on Saturday to bring our community together. Our volunteers are difference-makers and they truly leave an impact of hope in their wake.
As the Outreach and Operations Coordinator for the Open Door, I’m the connector. Essentially, I interact with volunteers and discover their gifts and talents and try to capitalize them in every possible way.
Each day is different working at Open Door, and I love variety. My previous experience is diverse; I have worked in retail, manufacturing, the military, construction, healthcare, telecommunications and finances before switching to the nonprofit realm.
I learned quickly that working for a non-profit is the type of job “that you better want to do.” It’s not about what’s in it for me, and it’s not about increasing the bottom line. We exist because of the life-transforming power of the gospel of Christ.
We are relationship-builders as we model God’s love through biblical hospitality and supportive services. When a guest has a need, we meet them where they are and show them through our actions, that their well-being is our top priority.
If you asked one of our shelter guests what love and support looks like, you’d receive an answer just like your own. Real love is tangible – it shows up and serves. What better gift of love can you give but of your most precious and limited resource of all: Time.
As a volunteer, you can model what it means to care. You demonstrate through your actions that the person who feels all alone in this world is valuable and worth serving. Demonstrated love is something that sticks with a person long after you leave.
Some of the ways our incredible volunteers serve:
• Maintaining facilities and equipment with woodworking, plumbing, landscaping with help from engineers, surveyors, electricians and excavators.
• Tapping into visions and ideas for continuous improvement and development through one-on-one meetings and committees.
• Setting up and hosting community events.
• Designing and creating new areas for our guests to explore and utilize.
• Transporting items like clothing, food and mulch.
• Recycling, reducing and reusing products from our shelters and soup kitchen.
At Open Door, our volunteers walk alongside us and share our burdens by caring for our neighbors in need. Like the group leader who called her team to buy galoshes and meet her at a flooded trail, they make “our problems” their problems. There’s no buyer’s remorse in volunteering and there’s no better feeling than serving next to someone who wants to help others.
Surround yourself with givers, and just feel your heart change and grow.
If you’re interested in joining the other givers who volunteer at the Open Door, please email me at email@example.com. I’d love to take you behind the scenes of this incredible community effort.
Bob Marsh, Outreach and Operations Coordinator for Midland’s Open Door, authored this column for the Midland Daily News’ Community Connections initiative.