We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” – Fred Rogers
At St. Francis House, we have many volunteers who are generous with their time and efforts, many who have braved the coronavirus to ensure our guests are served a home-cooked meal every day of the week. Our volunteers are our heroes. We wouldn’t be able to serve the individuals of Boston without these compassionate, caring, and hardworking people.
For October, our Volunteer of the Month is Michael Beshara! Michael has been volunteering with St. Francis House for 6 years, working mostly in our Resource Center one-on-one with individuals in need, connecting guests with access to computers, ID cards, showers, and more. During the coronavirus pandemic, Michael has been dedicated to our mission, serving and preparing in our kitchen whenever possible. Thank you for your commitment and care to our guests, Michael!
We had the pleasure to sit down and talk with Michael about his experiences at St. Francis House:
SFH: First, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Michael: I have been interested in some form of volunteerism for the underprivileged since my college days. I have spent most of my adult life in Boston and wanted to contribute to this city. I have had a pretty extensive and varied work career starting with juvenile boys who were wards of the state under the old Department of Youth Services system. We set up community-based residences once the detention homes closed where I lived and worked with the boys in the 1970’s.
After graduating college I worked for the Department of Corrections as a correctional counselor at the state prison facilities. Along the way I went to be head of case management for a contract agency working with recently released male inmates. I then took a long hiatus from this work for years and went to work for Raytheon in engineering support. I needed a break for what I thought would be a few years and ended up twenty five! During this time I still did volunteer work in the Boston area among the homeless and ended up being hired to set up a Department of Mental Health house for mentally-ill homeless men and women. Once this was off the ground for a couple of years, I decided to retire and give my time to volunteering.
SFH: Why do you choose to volunteer?
Michael: There are many reasons for my volunteering. Firstly, I fulfill my own sense of spirituality in doing this work. I do not subscribe to a particular creed except that as part of the human race I feel we are called to serve those in greatest need. As I saw Boston become more and more affluent and so many cast aside I thought I would concentrate on this city and its most vulnerable.
SFH: What made you choose St. Francis House, Boston?
Michael: I chose St. Francis because it fit perfectly with the ideals I just listed above. When I met with the first Volunteer Coordinator around six years ago I gave her my background and told her I would like a position where I could have direct guest contact. She recommended me for the Resource Center. I was among the first to do computer intake of all guests and equip them with membership cards until that position went to the counseling services. I was then moved to the front desk of the Center where I remained until COVID-19. For now, I do some volunteering in the kitchen until that time comes when I am able to return to the Resource Center.
SFH: Is there a moment or memory that stands out from your time here?
Michael: This is a hard question to answer because every day that I am here there are opportunities to help in so many ways and see how just small things, like find directions for someone, offer a shower, help with computers etc. or simply listen to their daily struggles just to survive, mean to them. I do all I can to help or refer them to the best resource. One observation I have made over the years is how many young people now use our services. It is a sign of the times and the desperate conditions people find themselves in earlier and earlier.
SFH: Do you have any advice for individuals who are considering volunteering?
Michael: I think this work in general really requires an open heart and genuine concern, without judgment, to those we serve. It is not a job where someone would just want to pass time, in my opinion. It has its difficult moments but the rewards are great!
SFH: Anything else you’d like to include regarding your time at SFH?
Michael: Putting in the years here has been among the most rewarding things I have done. I work with amazing people. A special shout out to the security staff who work so hard in constant direct contact with the guests and sometimes at the most difficult times. They are incredible.
Other than that I have made so many friendships with the guests that I even see on the street and subway and continue to be there for them. It’s a great way to give a little back in a hurting world.