On the first Thursday of every month, 11 Project Helping volunteers wake up bright and early to volunteer at The Gathering Place. Founded in 1986 as a day shelter for women, their children, and transgender individuals, TGP offers unconditional acceptance and respect to anyone experiencing poverty or homelessness. At each TGP event, volunteers give their time from 7am to 10:30am, during which they make breakfast for 100-125 TGP members.
On June 7th, ten slightly sleepy volunteers met up at The Gathering Place’s front door. We were greeted by the volunteer coordinator, Gia, who welcomed us with open arms and escorted us up to the kitchen where we would be cooking. After all the necessary hand washing and apron gathering, we set about mixing pancake batter. Once the initial nervousness subsided, we took eagerly to the task and ultimately made enough pancakes for two days of breakfasts.
Gia offered us a break from cooking with a tour of The Gathering Place. She walked us from the no-barrier reception area up through the building. We got to see Betsy’s Cupboard where members can pick out food for themselves and their families. The tour led us from Bridget’s Boutique where members can pick out clothes up to the playground on the roof.
I was amazed to see all the different resources that TGP offered! Not only did they address basic needs like sleep, food, and clothing, they also had all kinds of programming. TGP offered literacy and GED classes for job readiness as well as art classes. By the time the volunteers and I returned to the kitchen, we felt a renewed understanding of the impact that we were making.
When breakfast began, two of our volunteers took over the serving window. There, they compassionately asked each member exactly what they wanted for breakfast before serving them. TGP emphasizes choice in everything from meals to clothing as a way to empower community members. While they served our delicious pancakes, the rest of us split ourselves between making burritos and sandwiches.
I had honestly never tried to make burritos before this experience. After a handful of embarrassing rolling attempts, another volunteer in our group offered to show me her tricks. In the three hours of cooking, our volunteer group made so much food! Not only did we make and serve breakfast, we also made two types of burritos and packed sack lunches with sandwiches. Time seemed to fly! I could have sworn that we had just arrived when suddenly it was time to clean up.
After a quick wipe down of the dining area and a thorough mopping, all the volunteers gathered together to reflect. Overall, it was a great experience! The tour of The Gathering Place helped me to understand the impact that we were making. Cooking breakfast and making burritos may have seemed unimportant at the time; however, I now understood that by providing community members with basics like food, they were able to focus on taking other steps to care for their health.
I walked away from the experience feeling alert, refreshed, and very good about my morning. Volunteering with The Gathering Place was a great way to start my day. By getting out into the community, I felt great about going about the rest of my day.
If you want to impact the community by volunteering, check out upcoming Project Helping events around Denver here. For more information on how volunteering can help improve your mental health, check out The Benefits of Volunteering.