This is a guest post by Jordan McKerney, a marketing writer with Colliers International and co-chair of the Emerging Leaders Committee.
When I walked in the door of the YWCA Angeline’s Day Center, I was greeted by a friendly woman who asked, “Is this your first time here?” It took me a moment to realize that instead of recognizing me as a volunteer, she took me for one of the 250 women who spend time at Angeline’s every day, seeking a safe refuge from homelessness.
It was a jolting reminder of how fortunate I am to be able to give help rather than receive it. Thankfully, so many young professionals in our community feel the same way. That’s why every month you can find dozens of Emerging Leaders dedicating their time and energy to make our community a better place.
For this Second Saturday volunteer project at Angeline’s, 20 Emerging Leaders joined me to serve a warm meal to the center’s guests. In addition to meals, Angeline’s offers women experiencing homelessness access to a wide variety of services, whether they need a place to do laundry, store their belongings or make a phone call. It’s a place for women to stay warm and dry, to rest and to access services that can help them find permanent housing.
Every time I volunteer with Emerging Leaders, I am reminded of the incredible things that can happen when you bring a large group of caring people together. There were so many of us that we were able to personally serve meals to guests as they rested at tables, rather than going through the buffet line. There were so many of us that we were able to clean the kitchen top to bottom. There were so many of us that we were able to wash, chop and dice food for the rest of the week—making the job of the hardworking staff just a little bit easier.
A few days after our volunteer event, I had the chance to hear the CEO of Moz, Sarah Bird, speak to a group of Emerging Leaders. She talked about the importance of empathy in her career, and how “being proximate” is so essential to building understanding and connection. I immediately thought of Angeline’s and how impactful being proximate—interacting with guests face-to-face, hearing their stories and learning about their challenges—really was.
If we are going to help end homelessness, we need to understand the people experiencing it and what they need to build a better future. And I have no doubt that Emerging Leaders will be a very important part of that future!