A few months ago, I posted about the power of partnerships and while this continues to be an important piece of the NOAH family, in the last few weeks I have been amazed at the many volunteers who have come in and out of our doors. Some of these volunteers come each week, some once a year, and others just once in their life. Yet every volunteer makes an impact on NOAH and (we hope) leaves changed because of the love and relationships formed at NOAH.
With school out, summer is the season when youth groups are looking for places to serve, and we have been blessed by many groups in the last few weeks, many staying in Detroit with Motown Mission. Each group is a little different, but they have many similarities. Many enter a little nervous, having never worked with individuals experiencing homelessness. Many come excited to serve, many come desiring to listen and exchange stories. The most important thing though is that they come and are willing to give their time, and for that we are thankful.
As groups come in they are given an introduction to NOAH and put to right work! Whether it’s making sandwiches, assembling bags, or sorting through salty and sweet items there is never a shortage of work around here. As they work their nerves begin to subside and smile are shared, and we as a staff begin to get to know them. Then, as our clients come up for lunch, the real magic begins. Some will serve lunch behind the counter, others refill drinks, a few play games, and others just sit, talk, and share.
As I am seeing clients for casework it is such a joy to look out into our Community Center and see the youth who came in a little nervous sitting down, building relationships, and sharing stories with our clients. As the day goes on everyone finds where they are able to serve best and where they belong. Once we are finished serving lunch I typically spend some time wrapping up with the group while they eat lunch on the roof of our building, looking out into the city. Here we are able to discuss their experiences from the day, processing both the moments full of joy and surprise and those that were a little more difficult.
It is during this time that the wheels begin to turn for how the group can take the stories heard and relationships built at NOAH and allow it to transform how they live as they return home. In these moments I reflect on the many agencies and mission trips I have worked with and how each of those has brought me to where I am today. The mission trip in 9th grade where I was mad that we were not doing home repairs (my idea of a typical mission trip), but instead played with kids and helped in a nursing home, taught me that mission could happen in many ways. It was those trips and my summers through college where my heart was being prepared for NOAH, and for that I am so grateful.
So while having groups volunteer can make our day a little busier, I give thanks today for the many groups that have come in the last few weeks (and the groups that are still to come!). For relationships built, lives changed, and for the way that the small moments can have a lasting impact. So thank you to our volunteers, you have not only touched our clients’ lives but you have impacted mine!
Find pictures of some of NOAH’s recent volunteer groups on our Facebook Page!