This year, I have done most of my volunteering though the Isabella County Restoration House. This organization offered this really cool program during the cold winter months in partnership with the local churches in the Mount Pleasant community. What they offer is a rotating homeless shelter that rotates between the local churches each week. This serve relies solely on volunteers from each of these churches. There are volunteers for cooking breakfast each morning, cooking dinner, hangout time after dinner, and overnight monitoring. There are at least 2 people signed up for each volunteer shift. The rotating shelter, like I said, is heavily volutneer-dependant. For St. John’s, which has a smaller congregation made up of mostly retired individuals, I figured they could use the help. I sing in the church choir for St. John’s Episcopal Church, so I found out about the volunteer opportunity through their weekly e-news letter. Each time I volunteered I signed up for the overnight monitoring shift which runs from 11pm-6:30 am. I figured that since I am young and able-bodied I would be the best fit to work the overnight shift.
I loved each time I volunteered. The rewarding feeling of helping out a great cause definitely made up for the lack of sleep. the only downside to volunteering in the night was not being able to interact as much with the guests since they were all asleep. I did get to connect with a few of them though during my time. Hearing about the interesting lives of some of the guest was really cool and a good experience. For me, volunteer for the shelter really forced me to humanize all of the homeless individuals. It’s easy to feel bad for homeless individuals in general, but once I got to connect with one of them one-on-one, it really changed my perspective and opened my eyes to their situations. Each time I worked the shelter this year, we were either at, or close to our capacity for guests we could take in. While that is great because people are taking advantage of our service, it is also too bad that there are so many homeless people (and families with young children) that need to utilize our service.
My experience made me have a greater appreciation for our loving community and the efforts we are making to aid the homeless community. I will continue to help with the rotating shelter for as long as I am in Mount Pleasant. Without these programs and the volunteers involved in them, there would be no stable shelter for some of these individuals in the cold weather months. The rotating shelter, along with programs like People Helping People, are what makes Mount Pleasant a great place to live and provide awareness for community members of the huge, underestimated problem of homelessness in our own community.