Denver Rescue Mission is a nonprofit that is dedicated to serving the needs of those experiencing homelessness in Denver. The Crossing is one of their largest locations where they serve 130 men in the New Life Program and provide up to 100 rooms for STAR transitional program participants. Services such as meals, case management, and counseling allow families and individuals to develop the skill they need for self-sufficiency.
Project Helping has volunteer events at The Crossing on the second and third Wednesday of the month. Each shift involves serving dinner to the people receiving services at The Crossing. I arrived at 4:45 where I met the other volunteer who has shown up to volunteer with me. The buffet line was shorter than usual, so having fewer volunteers wasn’t a big problem. It worked out well, with her serving the main course and me serving both the salad and the dessert.
Once we had both donned aprons and gloves, a kitchen staff member gave us a brief orientation. Dinner for the men in the program began at 5:15. If you think that serving diner would be monotonous, you would be wrong. The men greeted us with genuine gratitude and clever humor. Although I was only interacting with someone for a few moments as I served them, I still felt a connection. As I served food, I chatted with several of the men about their Marvel T-shirts and we briefly debated Team Cap v. Team Iron Man.
The women, children, and families came in for dinner next. Because I was the volunteer in charge of serving the delicious chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, and pie slices, I immediately became very popular with some of the kids. Kids would make a beeline to the cookies. Several times I felt a small tug on my apron and looked down to see a cute little kid who would shyly ask me for a cookie – or two. Giving the little one a cookie with a couple napkins to go with it and watching them scamper off again with big smiles on their faces was one of the best feelings ever.
It wasn’t just the kids who loved the chocolate chip cookies. One man came through and explained that the optimal dessert was to dip a cookie in the frosting of one of the cupcakes. Someone else eagerly asked me to give him two cookies and then smash a piece of pie between them. Near the end of my shift, I did make myself a cookie and pie sandwich, which was exactly as amazing as I expected.
When dinner came to a close, the volunteers helped clean up by bringing the leftovers back into the kitchen. We wrapped up and labeled things, then wiped down the buffet line and all the tables. Only after the dining room was gleaming, did we strip off our gloves and hang up our aprons.
Overall, volunteering at The Crossing was an amazing experience. Everyone was incredibly open and polite. I left with that volunteerism glow and a smile on my face.
Sign up for your next volunteer experience here.
For more stories from volunteer events, check out an earlier post about The Gathering Place.