The impacts of COVID-19 on volunteerism here at St. Francis House, but really across the City of Boston, remain prominent. But as our Associate Director of Day Shelter Services said in passing this past January during the spike in cases due to Omicron: “we can only do the best we can do”.
Thankfully, for us our volunteers “best we can do” is pretty incredible. Despite Volunteer Services operating at a reduced capacity, we had over 400 individuals volunteer a total of 9,000 hours at St. Francis House in 2021! We reopened volunteer opportunities in our Clothing Department and Resource Center – volunteer roles that were paused in March 2020 due to COVID-19. Celebration is appreciation in action, and this is absolutely something worth celebrating.
We have learned together, grown through discomfort, and remained open and adaptable. I have seen our volunteer community center dignity and empathy in their approach to volunteerism. We have found resilience in service, but also in the community we have built together. 2021 was all about growth for our Volunteer Services Department, and I feel honored to have experienced these growing pains alongside such dedicated individuals.
In March 2022, volunteers completed a Volunteer Appreciation Month Feedback Survey. One comment in this survey that stood out was “Thanks for the continued opportunity to be a tiny part of the solution”. During a time when it is so easy to feel powerless, it is just as easy to embrace indifference. I believe volunteerism is a way of rejecting indifference and returning power. Returning power to yourself by giving time, by serving a meal, by listening, by taking some sort of action. Though we must also volunteer in a way that elevates returning power to the communities in which we are serving. Like our volunteers, our commitment to “helping those we serve to achieve renewed lives of dignity and self-determination,” is at the heart of our mission here at St. Francis House.
To me, one of the most beautiful things about our volunteer program is that our volunteers come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Yet through these varying backgrounds there is a homogenous truth that arises: commitment to service. Whether its college students involved with PULSE and 4Boston who are catching the green line as early as 6:00 a.m. to volunteer in our kitchen, retired folks who spend their time with us, or the working professionals who serve a 7:00-9:00 a.m. shift and then go straight to work – your efforts are seen and so deeply appreciated.
Thank you, this April and always, for everything you do for St. Francis House. I hope you take some time this month to care for yourself as much as you care for others. We could not do it without you. And in the words of our amazing Volunteer of the Year, Archie Smiles JT, “we did it!”
Written by Megan Quinones, former Volunteer Services Coordinator