Volunteer of the Month: Mike Fitzgerald

Over 3,000 individuals dedicate their time and talent to St. Francis House, this past year volunteering a total of 28,137 hours in our Resource Center, our clothing distribution programs, and the dining room serving nutritious meals. In an effort to shine a spotlight on the incredible compassion of our awesome volunteers, we’ve begun recognizing a Volunteer of the Month! For June 2020, the Volunteer of the Month is Mike Fitzgerald, read on to learn more about Mike’s dedication and experience as a volunteer.

“Mike is a great Volunteer of the Month. Pre-COVID-19, Mike Fitzgerald was loyally at St. Francis House every week!  A few weeks ago, Mike was a part of a crew who donated 400 face shields to our staff. He is such a dedicated friend to our organization and is committed to supporting our guests.” -Madeline Lessing, Volunteer Services Coordinator

Why do you volunteer?

Mike.: I started volunteering at St. Francis House (SFH) about 2 years ago when I sold my business and retired. When I retired, I missed the sense that I was contributing something.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am pretty sure that civilization would have done just fine without my 40-year contribution to the world of accounting and business software, but at the end of the day… I think it is important to feel like you accomplished something. Given my amazing shortage of skills and talents, a hobby just wasn’t going to fill the void, I needed more, and I like to think that volunteering helps both me and SFH. I get to feel like I am contributing again and hopefully, SFH gets a little bit of help in return.

What do you feel like you “bring to the table” when you volunteer?

Mike.: Aside from my stunning good looks? I like to think I bring a smile, an upbeat attitude, and a willingness to do whatever is needed. (But if you were to ask Sue in the kitchen, I would hope she would say I bring incredible mashed potato and griddle cleaning skills!)

What do you enjoy about volunteering?

Mike: I love being a small part of a great team that consistently, every Friday, prepares and feeds hundreds of very appreciative guests. While I know that the staff we work with, Sue, Rich, and Gilberto, deal with dozens of other volunteers (and could probably prepare and serve the meal more efficiently without us) they all make us feel important.
And I can say the same about the guests at SFH. Even though they may come through every day, they make a real effort to let us know they appreciate our help — even when veggie burgers are on the menu, haha 😀 !

What have you learned through volunteering?

Mike: Other than how to make American Chop Suey for 300 people… The biggest thing I have learned is that the homeless community is as diverse a group as the rest of the population.
They are all individuals who have unique personalities, they have good days and bad days like me and you, they have a history behind them and they have stories to tell.

Why do you choose to donate your time to the guests of St. Francis House?

Mike: I volunteer at SFH specifically because of the community it serves.
So many of us are just one life-event away from being homeless ourselves. And, while I donate financially as much as I can, the great thing about volunteering at SFH is that you get to see an immediate impact from your efforts. The lunch we help prepare and serve might be the only meal many of the guests eat that day. So it is a great feeling when a guest comes through the line for a 3rd helping, with a big smile and a thank you, because you know they mean it.  Great way to start your day!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Mike: After almost 3 months of pandemic induced home confinement, I am positive that I need SFH way more than SFH needs me 😷! I miss you guys!