Union Rescue Mission in LA is the oldest Rescue Mission in Los Angeles and the largest Mission of its kind in the United States. One of our best kept secrets to success is the impact volunteers have on our organization. We have nearly 14,000 volunteers that come to give of their time throughout the year. This allows us to house over 1,000 people a night at Union Rescue Mission downtown and our Hope Gardens Family Center in Sylmar and feed more than 3,000 meals each day at a greatly reduced cost, as volunteers join our staff to prepare and serve the meals, teach in our learning centers, tutor children, carry out special activities, and provide much needed love to our guests. This ability to serve our guests well at a greatly reduced cost is an incredible benefit, but it does not come close to the benefit received by the delivery of much needed love by our volunteers. One very special volunteer in our cafeteria shows up to serve the guests each day, and does so faithfully, but she also has a nearly 50 lb. purse loaded with candy that she hands out to the 130 children under our roof, and to the nearly 400 grown men as well. Getting candy from anyone is special, but it is the love that this volunteer and the candy represents that is so life-changing to children and adults who have been devastated by homelessness.
I credit the difference inside our Mission, as compared to the violence surrounding us on the streets of Skid Row, to the love delivered inside Union Rescue Mission by volunteers. While the streets around us are filled with crime, drug use, violence, and even death, once inside URM there is warmth, peace, hope and life. Our committed staff plays a part in this, but our swarm of loving volunteers transforms the environment.
URM is not the only beneficiary. I once had a poster inside my office with a Dr. Martin Luther King quote: “10 steps toward getting rid of the blues: do something for someone else and repeat it 9 nine times!”
I have followed that principle in getting the blues/depression out of my own life, and I believe that our volunteers have learned this secret as well. Nothing is more satisfying or healing than giving yourself and your time away to others who are struggling in our society.
I have had friends find their life’s passion and work by taking time to volunteer. A friend of mine had a passion for carpentry. He had an office job, but came down, volunteered at our Mission, and built a wonderful stack of strong shelves for our food storage. Soon he volunteered for other building projects and realized what a gift he had for building. He now builds $1,000,000+ homes. I am still looking for my own hidden talent like that! :)
Another friend of mine, a CFO for an insurance company, met me for lunch and shared his heart with me. He had a burden for young people experiencing homelessness. After our meeting, he volunteered in our work. He found his life’s calling and purpose. He left the high paying job to launch a very successful program for young people. It is called Hope For Homeless Youth. Taking that first step into the waters through volunteerism helped him discover his passion and make a huge impact on his community.
We’ve recently had several large corporations join us at URM for, what I call, Acts of Kindness Day. We line up about 12 acts of kindness throughout our building and our community; delivering cold water to people on the streets, handing out socks and sandwiches, working in our kitchen, BBQing for our families on the rooftop, karaoke with our kids, volleyball in the gym with our guys, footwashing along with new socks and shoes for our men and women. Certainly our guests were blessed by these events, but I believe that the corporations experienced a wonderful time of team building and joy.
As you can tell, I believe in volunteerism for selfish reasons. Volunteerism makes my job easier, helps me achieve our Mission’s objectives, and transforms our environment. However, I also appreciate volunteerism for some selfless reasons, as I watch the positive life changing effect it has on those who volunteer.
For more information on how you can become involved, check out our Volunteer Page!