Local volunteers share tales of serving hundreds

By Emily Eiermann

Stories of selfless individuals surface every day, but rarely so close to home. On Monday night, the Rider community was able to hear the success stories of volunteers around the area through Community Voices: SPEAK OUT!, an event that featured a panel of volunteer advocates.

The panel, a part of Rider’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, included representatives from Crisis Ministry of Mercer County, Covenant House, the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) and the Rescue Mission of Trenton.

The representatives were asked to speak about the organizations they were a part of. Laura Colee, an Americorps volunteer at Crisis Ministry described her experience.

“What we do is in the title: We help people in crisis,” she said. “We help if you are behind on your rent and there’s threat of you being kicked out of your house, or if you don’t have enough food in your pantry to feed you and your kids. Crisis can mean something is going on in your life and you live in a perpetual state of poverty — we’re able to help with that.”
The other organizations play similar roles in the area. According to the representatives, the Covenant House provides housing for homeless youth, TASK serves food to the hungry and the Rescue Mission of Trenton offers a place to sleep and two types of drug and alcohol treatment: one residential for adult men.

Anthony Johnson, one of the panelists for the Rescue Mission, went through the drug rehabilitation program and now volunteers at the agency.

“I was introduced to the mission because I wanted help, and everything else fell right into place,” he said. “It’s an everyday reminder, working with the homeless and working with addicts who are trying to change their lives around. That motivates me every day.”

The panelists made the audience aware of the gravity of the problem of homelessness. According to Barrett Young from the Rescue Mission, the organization lets in up to 250 people a night when the weather turns cold, and normally hits that number easily. Chris Gaffney of Covenant House in New York said that its facilities host between 375 and 400 young adults a night. However, the problem stretches far beyond the Tri-state area.

“Across the country, we may house 1,700 kids under our roofs tonight,” Gaffney said.
According to the panelists, the best thing Rider students can do is volunteer. All of the volunteers stressed the benefits they received from donating their time, whether it was hearing success stories from those they’ve helped or just retaining the knowledge that they’ve made someone else’s day a little better.

“Two things motivate me,” said J Steinhauer of TASK. “One is that you can always be doing better. The other is that there’s good in the world and you have just got to find it. Tomorrow is going to be a better day, hopefully because I helped you today.”

Community Voices: SPEAK OUT!, was one of many events organized for Rider’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. Other activities included, a hunger banquet, bare necessity drive, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich-making and a Brown Water musical event.

Contact this writer at eiermanne@rider.edu

 

Printed in the 11-30-12 edition

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