It has always been important to me to “give back” to my community, and to be of service.
I’ve been particularly drawn to work with some of the most disenfranchised people in our society.
Age of 19
I volunteered at my first homeless shelter in Washington, D.C. at the tender age of 19 (and boy was that ever a learning experience!). In D.C. I was part of a community that not only ran a huge shelter, but did activism on behalf of the homeless. After leaving that community, I continued to volunteer at shelters for homeless women. I brought my infant daughter with me, and she took her first steps with one of the residents! It was a mutually beneficial relationship for all; I got out of the house and got to be around people with my wee one, and the women at the shelter got to hold and nurture her.
I moved with my daughter to an intentional community in Virginia when she was two years old. I immersed myself in community life, but ultimately needed more meaning, so I started volunteering, then got hired part-time, at a battered women’s shelter in a nearby town. The first time I answered the hotline in the middle of the night for a woman who was in the throes of domestic violence I was awake for hours worrying about her safety and wellbeing. I figured out fast that I would have to find a way to be OK even if I never knew the results of a particular woman’s situation. It’s this ability to stay open-hearted while being somewhat detached from the results that has enabled me to continue to serve people in desperate situations.
When I left Virginia in 2004, I got a job working at a homeless shelter in Boulder, CO. It was an incredible experience; they took the job of treating people with dignity very seriously. This extended to the staff as well; every staff member had paid supervision time, and we were trained to look after the well-being of staff as well as residents. Without this kind of support I probably wouldn’t have lasted 10 months, much less 10 years!
Asheville, North Carolina
Fast forward to life in Asheville, NC. Never have I lived in a place that put so much emphasis and value on charitable giving and doing good works. Every other event is a fund-raiser for some worthy cause. It’s really touching and inspiring. Occasionally I fall prey to some internal guilt because I haven’t yet plugged into an organization that I feel called to assist. But getting trained as a Life Coach, and immersing myself in starting a business have required a lot of mental and emotional energy. I have no doubt that the right “cause” is out there, and that I will indeed get involved; I can’t seem to help myself! I feel proud to live in a town that values lending a helping hand to those who need it, and look forward to playing my part in the near future.