Don’s Volunteer Journey

“You’ll probably decide that you want to serve again.” —Don

Every volunteer at Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities (UGMTC) starts their journey somewhere… serving a meal… serving with a group… packing grocery bags at Thanksgiving… Don began his journey of volunteering just over two years ago. He started serving meals regularly at our Men’s Campus. And he kept coming back for more. Since May of this year, he has been volunteering once a week with our adult education program. He transports people in our programs to and from the Education Center and takes the time between trips to tutor the students of our LifeNet program, even helping them with mock interviews as they pursue employment.

Don enjoys the opportunity to work with these students one-on-one. He was surprised by the response of the students in the LifeNet program. “They were so accepting of me as a tutor. They would call on me to help when they had a question.”

Because of his consistency, he has built relationships with the people he serves. “There was one guy who I saw all the time, but I stopped seeing him,” Don recalls. “After some time had passed, I saw him again and he said, ‘I miss you! I got a job!’ That was very meaningful.”

After tutoring and transporting people, they know who he is when he serves meals. He has watched several guys complete LifeNet and is able to follow up with them. They give him updates on their lives and the transformation that is happening, and he wants other people to experience that. So, he started a group at his church. Now, Don leads a group of men from three different campuses of his church as they serve breakfast every Tuesday together.

Here is what Don has to say if you are considering volunteering:

What is the best part about volunteering at UGMTC?

Well, first of all, the fact that everything the Mission does is Christ-centered is very important. I see God working through the staff, the programs and just in the overall atmosphere at UGMTC. The more I get involved, the more I can see that the money I contribute to UGMTC is being well-spent.

In addition to supporting the Mission financially, I wanted to get involved by donating my time in some kind of meaningful way. Serving meals turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. The kitchen staff is friendly and helpful, and I can’t think of many things you can do that are more rewarding than feeding someone who is hungry.

Through volunteering at LifeNet, I have been able to get to know some of the men, hear their stories, and see them get valuable education and training, update their résumés, and find jobs. The instructors and curriculum at LifeNet are great, and the career services team makes it possible for students to really move forward with their lives. I have been very impressed with the LifeNet program.

What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering at UGMTC?

Do it. Serving three meals a day, 365 days a year requires a lot of volunteers. The need is great, especially for breakfast and on weekends. UGMTC’s website makes it easy to register as a volunteer, see how many volunteer spaces are available for any given meal service, and sign up to serve. And I’m proof that you don’t need any special skills to make a difference. You can volunteer once, on a regular basis, or whenever your schedule allows. You can volunteer individually, or it’s perfect for churches, businesses, or other organizations looking for opportunities for small groups to volunteer together. And since there are opportunities seven days a week to serve breakfast, lunch or dinner, everyone should be able to fit it into their schedule. It’s great for someone like me who is retired, but I also know people who volunteer for the breakfast service and can still get to work on time. When I was employed, I was able to serve at the dinner service after I got off work. I would encourage everyone to volunteer or get a group together and give serving a meal a try. I think you’ll be glad you did, and you’ll probably decide that you want to do it again.

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