From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Strong crew of steady volunteers help keep House of Charity up and running

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Aug. 2, 2001 edition of the Inland Register

Five volunteers and kitchen director Cally DeWitt were lined up behind the food counter at the House of Charity. They worked quickly, dishing up the mid-day meal which on this particular day was tomato soup and ham sandwiches. Friendly greetings went back and forth over the counter between them and the people who came to eat.

The House of Charity moved into a spacious new building a little less than a year ago. In its easier-to-find location at 32 W. Pacific, the use of its services has jumped markedly.

“In June we served 5,500 meals,” said Ed McCaron, House of Charity’s director. “Our highest before was 4,000.”

Between 200-250 patrons come through its doors each day, to use the showers or the phone, to get a meal or drink a cup of coffee. How is the House of Charity able to meet the social service demand of its patrons?

The answer is volunteers. The men and women who serve the meals and perform the myriad other chores at the House of Charity are the backbone of this diocesan ministry.

In a given year at the House of Charity, 350 volunteers help about a dozen staff members serve patrons’ needs each day. About 100 volunteers are regulars who work frequently in many different areas.

Volunteers, men and women, come in all ages from all walks of life. Some are high school students, helping with meals, or college students, learning about service to people in need. Some of the volunteers are the patrons themselves, helping each other out.

Some are drivers, traveling around the city to pick up food and other items. Some sort the donated clothes; some do laundry. Some are physicians, mostly retired, who keep tabs on the physical health of patrons. Nurses come, too, as do student nurses.

They work one day a week, or every day every week. When the House of Charity is open on Sundays, some work just those days. Some spend the night during the winter to help with the sleeping program.

Meet Dean White of Spokane who began working at the House of Charity after he retired about a year and a half ago. He enjoys the work — “What I really like is the hands-on stuff” — and comes to the House every day to do whatever is needed, whether it’s serving meals, picking up food, or helping a patron find new clothes.

Meet Rosemary Barker, who is on the crew of women who prepare the newsletter for mailing. She has been a volunteer for about seven years. She is the oldest volunteer; her 98th birthday was July 24. About 3,500 newsletters are sent out, up from 2,000 a couple of years ago.

If volunteers aren’t paid for the work they do, what do they get out of their service?

“It gives me something to do.”

“It makes me feel good.”

“I feel like I’m helping someone one out.”

“It’s the right thing to do.”

“It’s what we do if we’re followers of Jesus.”

The willing service of this large group of people gives a measure of dignity and value to each person who comes through the door, no matter what. They give credence to the Gospel message to help the least of their brothers and sisters.

The many people who work as volunteers at the House of Charity might not think of themselves as earning spiritual rewards. But a bumper sticker stuck to the wall in the medical clinic says it best: “Volunteers go to heaven.”

*****

The House of Charity is seeking additional volunteers, especially men who can help with the winter sleeping program and drivers.

Men on the street are given a place to sleep at night during the winter months. The volunteers in the program serve from 6-10 p.m., helping the men get settled down.

“We need two (volunteers) per night,” said Ed McCaron, House of Charity’s director.

Other volunteers in other areas, such as the front office, are needed and would be most welcome.

Those who can help in any of these areas are asked to call 624-7821.


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