by Greg Asciutto
When I started volunteering in the Housing and Employment Resource Center (HERC) at Men’s Shelter of Charlotte two years ago to help men build resumes, apply for housing and search for employment.
I saw the experience as a way to familiarize myself with the needs of Charlotte’s homeless community. I was in my first year of teaching at Garinger High, where roughly 5% of the student population is homeless. Through the shelter’s guests, I thought I’d be able to learn about the city’s complex social service system so I could be a better resource for my students and their families.
Fortunately, the dozens of men whom I’ve grown close to over the past few years have taught me about more than how to navigate that system; they’ve taught me how to be human.
When I walk into the HERC, I feel part of a community that genuinely cares for its members. It’s not all “business,” and for the sake of sanity it can’t be; politics, sports and family are just as important topics of conversation as housing application statuses and job interviews. Even when the end game is housing, life has to continue – helping men with that balancing act is what keeps me coming back each week.
Visit out website for more information about the HERC or to sign up for other volunteer opportunities!
Meet Derek and Fred.
The pair volunteers at the shelter at least 3 days a week. Some days you will find them greeting guests and passing out drinks during lunch. Other days they will organize and sort donations in the commissary.
One thing is for sure – Derek’s smile is contagious. He brings energy and compassion to melt your heart.
“We are fortunate that Men’s Shelter of Charlotte allows us to spend a few hours each week with the men.”
Thank you, Derek & Fred, we’re truly lucky to have them!
He’s a regular in the kitchen and has a true passion for serving others.
“It’s an easy way to show the men the community cares about them,” Larry said.
Years ago, he delivered clothing to the shelter with his church and he was hooked. Larry began helping his church with meals and soon took over leading monthly meal service for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte.
When he retired about 6 years ago, Larry made an even bigger commitment to serving at Men’s Shelter of Charlotte. He volunteers 1-2 times each week in the kitchen.
Our kitchen manager, Bob Breed, said Larry will do anything to help and often comes to the rescue!
“Its days when we’re shorthanded just before lunchtime – we’re scrambling to get ready and Larry appears. He pitches in and lends a hand wherever we need it, and everything goes smoothly after that,” Breed said.
Larry says he enjoys working with the other volunteers and being there to encourage the men.
Thank you, Larry, for your dedication to ending homelessness. #NationalVolunteerWeek
Every Monday night you will find her warm smile greeting clients and volunteers at the front desk. Jacqui has been a regular on the desk for 8 years!
She said the best part about volunteering is interacting with the men and supporting their lives.
“I look forward each Monday to finding out if a guy got the job he interviewed for last week, and if that guy is doing well after his surgery. I just really care about them,” she said.
When asked why she keeps coming back, Jacqui said the shelter is in her blood.
“Sometimes it is chaotic and hectic, but it definitely keeps me grounded and enriches my soul. I am really grateful for my time there.”
Thank you, Jacqui, for all you do to support the men! #NationalVolunteerWeek
Church volunteers more than 30 years at shelter
Group is one of ten to receive the award.
St. Matthew Catholic Church was honored with the Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service during a breakfast celebration on Tuesday, April 14th. This year marks the 37th anniversary of the program that showcases North Carolina’s most dedicated volunteers.
30 years of Service
For over 30 years, St. Matthew has provided meal services – critical to the stability and well-being of our clients. But their support doesn’t stop there. The Men’s Shelter of Charlotte Ministry team, led by Tom Ellis, exemplifies “best practices” and always finds ways to adapt to changing needs at the shelter.
First Group to support Housing and Employment Resource Center (HERC)
In 2013, St. Matthew became the first congregation to support the Housing & Employment Resource Center (HERC). The team consists of 10-12 volunteers who regularly rotate their service on Wednesday evenings to support our clients with job and housing searches.
Volunteers from the church provide weekly support in the commissary to pass out toiletries and clothing. The church also has 4 separate meal service groups that provide lunch or dinner on a monthly or quarterly basis.
12,000 items collected through drives for the basics
Aside from volunteering, St. Matthew also has a commitment to providing basic necessities for the men. All church members are invited to get involved through quarterly drives for socks, underwear and t-shirts. Last year, the group donated more than 12,000 items!
St. Matthew was one of 10 recipients to receive the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award. It honors the true spirit of volunteerism by recognizing individuals, groups and businesses that make a significant contribution to their community through volunteer service.
Thank you for your service, St. Matthew Catholic Church! #NationalVolunteerWeek
Photo credit: Barrie Terrell/United Way of Central Carolinas