Volunteer Where It’s Needed: Surprise! It’s in Your Own Neighborhood.

By United Way of King County, on September 26, 2014 | In Fighting Homelessness, Volunteering

Lisa WolfGuest blogger Lisa Wolf works in Community Development at Washington Federal. She currently sits on the Emerging Leader Marketing Committee and was a United Way Loaned Executive in 2013. Check out Washington Federal’s blog about their Day of Caring fun too!

I love to clean. And I love to help people. So when I was asked to lead a cleaning team of Emerging Leaders for the Day of Caring, I was quick to say yes! But little did I know just how challenging and eye-opening the day of cleaning would become.

As I walked through South Lake Union to the Cascade Women’s Center, which is part of Compass Housing Alliance, I found myself (as a former resident of that very neighborhood) surprised that it was in a building I had admittedly never paid any attention to. Turns out, this building is home to 32 women at a time, who are in transitional housing for up to a year. They are even open to returning alums if women who have completed their program need that extra assistance.

When I reached the locked entrance I was greeted by the project team, who I had never met before. All nine of us identify ourselves as emerging leaders but had not yet crossed paths. It made me not only happy to see my peers just as eager to get cleaning, but proud to see that this group of “strangers” was willing to come together to help out in the community on the biggest day of volunteering in the state. I felt solidarity as we were led on a tour of the facility.

The Center provided us a checklist of tasks, and we were quick to remark how “easy” or “simple” this would be as we broke into teams to tackle each project. But three hours later we were sweating and taking back our initial comments, as we continued to degrease the ovens, hose down window screens, and scrub the endless baseboards and walls. It was hard work but as a team we pulled together and tried to make it our personal goal to remove every trace of grease or garbage in that building!

It was at that point when some of the women residing at the shelter popped their heads into the kitchen to say “thank you” with a big smile – which kept us motivated to help preserve their home, their security from the streets, their new opportunities. Cleaning suddenly meant much more than just an unclogged sink. They truly appreciated our work to preserve their home through these simple acts and time that we often take for granted.

We were impressed to learn that to this organization received more than $400,000 in funds from the United Way of King County last year, and this is just one of many that benefit from United Way’s efforts toward ending homelessness. Knowing that thousands of other “strangers” like us had come together on projects throughout the county that day was surreal. And knowing that the women we had met would be sleeping behind secure doors in a clean home that night was incredible.


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