Enriching Lives through Homeless Volunteer Work

This entry was posted on Jan 30, 2012 by Charlotte Bell.
Homeless Volunteer Work:  Generosity that Makes a Difference

From now through the end of March, a percentage of Hugger Mugger’s net sales will go to The Road Home. This week’s post focuses on how our Salt Lake yoga community can enrich people’s lives through homeless volunteer work.

I taught yoga at Salt Lake’s First Unitarian Church for 25 years. For the last 20 of those years, I gladly shared my teaching space one evening each month with a lively group of church members who set up a production line in the kitchen that adjoins the yoga space. The assembly line formed to make sandwiches to donate to the homeless. The sandwich factory usually cut into the first 15 or so minutes of my class, but I didn’t mind. My students and I were happy to coexist with such a generous cause.

Kelsey Stark, volunteer coordinator for The Road Home’s Midvale overflow shelter, says donating sandwiches is one of the ways the individuals or groups can contribute to the organization’s efforts to support the homeless community. The Road Home invites groups and individuals to join their efforts to make life a bit easier for people whose lives are, at least temporarily, quite unstable.

Feeding folks with limited access to nutritious meals is one way to help. Formal groups such as church communities or informal groups such as families and friends are welcome to cook meals at their churches or homes and bring the food down to The Road Home. Kelsey says this requires a group effort. “You could easily be feeding 100 people. For example, you can make meals for the 80 single women, or for the 31 families at the shelter. Really brave groups can make meals  for the men,” she says, adding that there are 400 men at the shelter most nights. “There’s a group that likes to do a big barbecue for the men.”

There are many other ways to help out as well. Individuals and groups of 20 or fewer are welcome to join other volunteers in helping out with the shelter’s regular activities, such as leading the weekly children’s book club or organizing activities in the children’s play room. Donations of blankets, clothing and diapers come to the shelter frequently. Volunteers can help sort donations to make The Road Home’s warehouse easier to use. The downtown shelter can always use help at its front desk.

Kelsey also invites people to bring their own ideas to the shelter. “If you have a special talent or skill, run it by us,” she says. “All the programs we have now exist because someone in the community thought of them. If you have something you’d like to share, ask us. Maybe it could become a permanent program.” Currently the shelter welcomes a group that knits with the single women, a regular budgeting class, hairstylists that offer free haircuts and just last week, a yoga teacher offered a free yoga class to residents.

There are many ways you can help. If you have an idea for a program or would like to help with an existing program, contact the volunteer coordinators at either shelter.

About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

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