I recently got connected with Hope Ministries. I had been looking for volunteer opportunities in my area. When I thought about where I would want to volunteer I felt very called to a position that would serve those less fortunate than myself. During that same time I was reading a book about homelessness in the DC area. Even though the book was fictional, I know the author does his research prior to writing and felt that several of the things he discussed could be common every day occurrences. As I started looking for opportunities to help the homeless in Des Moines I came across Hope Ministries. (Click on the logo above to check out their web page).
In order to volunteer with this organization you have to complete a training course. The main thing this course does is introduce you to all the parts of Hope Ministries and its history. I was amazed by all the services they offered to the homeless and needy and felt instantly that this was the right place for me to serve. The passion of the staff members was very apparent. The care they had for everyone that came through their doors was obvious. During my training session a man had brought several youth from his church to start volunteering. The staff recognized him and had him share his testimony. He had actually been homeless for a period of time and while hitchhiking across the country found himself injured and in a Des Moines hospital. When it was time to release him he was given the option of being brought to Hope Ministries. To hear him describe what he had been through and the change he experienced while being at Hope was a beautiful testimony.
Do you ever have days where it seems like nothing goes right? You spill coffee on yourself on your way to work. You forget your cell phone at home. Your kids yell and fight during dinner. Your favorite show isn’t on the one night you finally don’t have anything else on the calendar. These types of days can really get you frustrated. But, at the end of those days, what do you do? Go to bed, right? I don’t mean to diminish the bad days and difficult things that anyone is experiencing, but for me it has been somewhat eye opening to realize that at the end of every day when I get tired, I know where I’m going to lay my head down that night. Even more reassuring, I know where I’m going to eat my next meal.
Stop for a moment and just think very seriously about that. Let’s say that for whatever reason, you get told at 1:30 pm today that you are now officially homeless and have only a minimal amount of money. It is a cool, fall day and the temps will drop into the low 50s tonight. Now imagine you’re told that this is going to last for 30 days, the money is only going to dwindle away and the temps continue to drop. It makes the shelter part of life seem much more urgent. Your stomach growls more than it used to. You no longer have that comfort of knowing that no matter how bad the day was, you won’t be curling up in your bed tonight to sleep it off. You won’t wake up in the morning and brew your pot of coffee. Those daily necessities, food and rest, are no longer guarantees. What do you do?
That thought is so hard for me to wrap my mind around.
For those that find themselves in that situation I’m so glad there are places like Hope Ministries. For those that may have shelter, but are unable to provide food, they’re also welcome for 3 meals a day, 365 days a year! Again the amount of services this group provides to the community is amazing. It is no wonder they’ve been around for 100 years!
Back to my volunteer work with them – I’ve been so fortunate to help out at the Hope Center for Women and Children. More specifically I’ve been helping in the infant to kindergarten age room. We try to have enough volunteers there so that each child is given one-on-one attention. These children are precious. The pure joy of a young child is one of the sweetest things to me. These children are usually young enough that they don’t fully understand what it means to be homeless. They are living in a wonderful community surrounded by support. While they have been through struggles of their own, they still have so many smiles to share. Their mothers have taken on the stresses of figuring out what steps need to be taken next. Hope Ministries gives the moms a place and the assistance to do this while also watching out for the children and allowing them to have a stable and fun environment.
The topic of homelessness is something I could spend much more time going on and on about, but I know I still have a lot to learn. Please take some time to check out Hope’s website. They can provide you with all sorts of astonishing stats. If you’re not from the Des Moines area, check out homeless shelters in your area. What kinds of things can you help provide for them? Maybe they have monetary needs, or specific items like diapers and hygiene items. Do certain businesses in town offer ways to join with them in supporting a shelter? For example, Northern Lights pizza of Des Moines goes to the men’s shelter (also where the public eats) every Tuesday and makes pizzas at lunch. It is such an amazing outreach for that company to be involved with.
I hope this post doesn’t come across as a guilt trip. It is not at all intended to be that. Hopefully though it does make you pause and realize that even on some of your worst days, you still have some comforts in life that others go without. When things are going well for you, how might you be able to reach out to those who just need a little extra care?