Volunteer: to freely offer to do something; help.
I started ROAM because I wanted to help those in nutrition related areas by “reaching out and assisting meals.”
How was I going to do this? I had no idea. I just wanted to help people. Help by serving, donating, purchasing food, teaching, and my the list could go on for days. My initial thought was how can I roam the world and give back– food banks. Then I thought how could I do this in my community? Food banks, homeless shelters, Salvation Army, etc.
This year I recommitted myself to helping others. Once I started to look for places to lend a helping hand, I often found it did not align with my hectic schedule. This frustrated me because I thought “how hard is it to help people?” I finally called a homeless shelter in town, stated my cause, and asked how I could fit my schedule into theirs.
Once signed up, I was introduced to the way the shelter was run, its goals and mission. This was aligned with what I wanted to do: help.
My schedule is based on four different sports so I cannot commit a time every month and schedules change consistently, similar to life. Yet, I signed up for four days any ways and committed myself to these regardless of schedule. I had to make it work. Let’s be honest, two of those day I had to force myself to go because I wanted that small bit of free time to myself. Yet, I still went and enjoyed my time, as I knew I would.
My first day, Taylor and I cut fruit for three hours. She can now cut a melon and I can cut strawberries for days. This was a normal day at the office for us. The “staff” was surprised at our willingness to just cut fruit and hang out listening to music. They were so laid back it made our time there enjoyable. They even shared the coffee, and by the way, best cup of Joe I’ve had.
Day two, I served breakfast. Breakfast starts around 7 am. The first group to come down the line are those in the “life changing program”–it was the “staff” that helped us on day one. I was mind blown. I couldn’t believe the guys that helped us and made our first day great were the men that were trying to fix their own lives. It was a humbling moment because ANYONE can be going through homelessness, trouble times, food insecurity, and you would never know. It really emphasizes the Golden Rule of “treat others the way you wish to be treated”.
Day three and four, I labeled donated clothes in the warehouse. I remember thinking “Man, I’m freezing out here” and instantly thought “Nikki, you’re helping people, stop being entitled”. I kept labeling.
After talking with the guys in the warehouse, they have really come along way. When they first arrived at the warehouse, clothes were just dumped as they came in. There were rodents, roaches, and open access to whoever could get into the place. Now, it is set-up as a “shopping” experience for the men and women to shop for their new belongings as they transition out of homelessness. Everything is kept in an orderly fashion, labeled, and neatly put together as if it was a store. They get to pick their own clothes, shoes, socks, toiletries, and home decor.
The men that work the warehouse have mentioned “man, you just missed someone getting to pick their new items, you should really experience that one day”. I hope I get to because it’s a symbol of someone taking the help provided, working hard, and starting over. A new life.
For those that need support, it’s out there. Don’t be shy to ask for help. As for myself, my passion may be donating time and energy in regards to food but nothing beats someone starting fresh, taking control of their life, and striving to become someone they want to be.
This month see if you can ROAM into a place that you can offer a stranger a helping hand.