Hear what some of our volunteers and staff members have to say about their service at Dallas Hope Charities. We aim to make this a fun and rewarding experience for all who take time in the service of others.
Dallas Hope Charities, the "parent" of iCare (the weekly lunch and food pantry) enticed me to get involved when I learned I could share my culinary skills with the less fortunate in my own community. From day one a little over year ago, I was in love. I do meal planning, prep each meal, cook the meal and sometimes help to serve it, then we all clean up. After a crazy week at work, I look forward to Mondays.
About six months ago, Hello Fresh began donating fresh produce to supplement our program as well as contribute to staff and any person desiring a bag of produce. Starting in March 2017, Homeward Bound began paying it forward, paying it back to us for our donations of produce by giving us weekly donations of break for our guests.
When I started my new job, a prerequisite for me was to have Mondays off so that I would still be able to cook for the wonderful people who come to our amazing iCare for a hot meal and some groceries. Today, I am both blessed and grateful to call Dallas Hope Charities my home.
I grew up in a household where it was the norm to help other people. As an adult, I feel that it is my responsibility to help make the world a better place in whatever ways I can. I was the lead on multiple neighborhood cleanups and People Helping People projects for several years. I also helped gather and organize school supplies for Maple Lawn Elementary and food baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Later on I took over the lead in collecting Thanksgiving Baskets and still work on that project.
Volunteering has connected me to people that I otherwise would not have met and enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined.
Volunteering, at least for me, is more than a way of giving back. It's a life-changer.
After having been a member of Cathedral of Hope for three years and witnessing firsthand the level of volunteer-driven impact that its congregation was making locally, I knew I had to become involved. I began as a volunteer leader for Project 1999, an initiative whose goal was to reach out into the immediate neighborhood and uplift it through providing services and school supplies for our adopted elementary school (whose majority population at the time lived at or below the poverty level), cleaning up the neighborhood, planting trees, and generally taking charge of bringing hope to the immediate area.
At the time, I was working on completing an MBA program while running an extremely successful, well-respected and profitable business. As I become more involved with the volunteer outreach opportunities, I eventually gave in to that nagging lifelong directive of working to change the lives of the underserved, marginalized, and forgotten. Following a lengthy period of great reflection and soul-searching, I sold my business and became the volunteer part-time director of community outreach program. As the program grew and as graduation from the MBA program came and went, I was asked to be the full-time director of community outreach - the most fulfilling and rewarding career investment I have ever made.
Seeking to fulfill another lifelong dream of living on a tropical island, I moved to Maui and opened and ran another award-winning business. In thirteen years living in paradise, there was a major element missing: volunteering in Dallas.
I would encourage anyone who is feeling the call to give to step forward and answer that call - even if on the level of one hour per month. The participation in one Dallas Hope Charities outreach event may very well change your life, too.
My favorite quote in the world is from Mother Teresa, who said; "Break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in."
Well, honestly I have had a few of those moments in my lifetime and as hard as they have been, I wouldn't change anything. One of my more positive heartbreaking times has come from serving at BACH (our breakfast program that provides fresh, hot meals for those experiencing economic disadvantage). We feed and minister to upwards of 300+ people every Saturday morning.
About 4 years ago, after much prodding from friends to go help, I finally went. I said, "I'll go one time but after that no promises." I'm not a morning person and I honestly didn't think I had it in me to feel comfortable around those type of people. While that sounds anything but politically correct, I was honestly afraid I would sit down and cry or just be awkward around them because I felt so badly for them.
My first assignment at BACH was to walk around with cookies and desserts and ask who would like some. Well right away, I realized it wasn't nearly as awkward as I had feared. I asked at each table, "Who would like a dessert?" as they responded affirmatively, I would take the tray over and let them choose what they wanted. I asked at one table and a seemingly shy gentleman raised his hand and nodded. When I made my way over there, he said, "I don't really want anything, but I noticed that you smiled at the people who said yes, and I just wanted you to smile at me." My heart literally broke for him at that moment, what a simple request, how could I refuse? I sat my tray down and said to him, "I'm going to make you a promise, I will do my best to be here every week and not only will I smile at you, I'm going to give you a big hug." I hugged him and chatted with him briefly. His name is Richard - I call him sweet Richard. Since that day, I have missed very few Saturdays and I very rarely missed getting a hug from my dear friend. When I see him, my heart literally smiles all day! My job at BACH has changed several times, but Richard always manages to find me! I can hear his sweet voice saying, "Miss Melissa I'm here for my hug!" Sometimes he comes back multiple times during the morning saying, he needs just one more hug.
Yes, people come because their stomachs are empty, but many come because they need a hug, a smile or just a kind word. My heart breaks pretty much every week, but it's the best medicine my soul could ever receive. While their physical needs never seem to end, neither does their longing to be loved, even if it's just through a kind word, a smile and a hug.