Senior Volunteers at Homeless Shelter

by Bob Mc
(New York)

My life has been full, and filled with joys.

So, when I retired, at first I just relaxed and soaked up the leisure and recreation that an empty schedule afforded me.

It wasn't long, however, before the rest of the world came back into sharper focus. The nightly news was filled with stories of need, and despair, and calamities.

But, I didn't know what I could do to help, as I lived in the relative isolation of the suburbs. I have long been interested in finding solutions to homeless problems, since my own home has been such a secure and life-changing base for me.

I knew first-hand the anxiety of not having a place to call home, a refuge from the wear and tear of life. Knowing that there is a safe place to rest at the end of the day allows us to make all the efforts that must be made to support a healthy life.

That is why, when I saw an advertisement seeking local volunteers for a homeless foundation, I knew I had to find out more. I called and was told that they needed help at local places of worship, to feed and watch over homeless families that came to find a secure haven to sleep each night.

I was afraid my age might be a negative factor, but it turned out they needed people of all ages, and especially benefited from having seniors on site to help tend the children.

I went once a week to a local church basement that housed a small kitchen and a large activity room. There were sleeping bags kept in cabinets, and additional bedding materials that were brought in from a service for the evening's guests.

Food volunteers brought baked goods in bulk, along with donations from local stores and restaurants.

I spend the next two years helping to bake, organize, orient and watch over families who were homeless as they filled their children's bellies with warm food, and caught a few hours of restful sleep.

We always had about 10 volunteers on hand for about 70 people who found their way to shelter, and our shift was only four hours long to ensure that we were not over-taxed in our time or energy.

It always amazes me the resilience of those who experience the toughest hardships. It was an honor to be part of a group who found ways to ensure the security and basic needs of those who find themselves homeless.

And, volunteer work in my senior year's have given new meaning to my life.

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