Topics: Volunteering, Faith

Lessons Learned Serving the Homeless

Apr 13, 2015 10:39:12 AM | by Cheryl Clark

Since November of 2014, Sherwood Oaks has been providing volunteers for the Interfaith Winter Shelter every 2nd Thursday of the month. Several volunteers have given of their time (and sleep) to make sure that the homeless of Bloomington have had a warm, safe place to sleep at night.

What started out as a random group of volunteers for the set-up shift quickly turned into a great way for families and Life Groups to serve together. Each month the number of volunteers grew and the amount of time that it took to set up shrank. One of the volunteer families even bought Bibles for all of the guests. On their son’s birthday, he asked that instead of presents he would rather have money to buy Bibles for those staying at the homeless shelter. And he couldn’t wait to put the Bibles on their beds that night. What an example he set for all of us!

The in-take shift was a great way to meet the guests and have conversations. They were very appreciative to have a warm place to stay. And we made sure that they were well-fed before bedtime. Homemade soup and cookies or brownies were available for them to enjoy. The second shift was usually pretty quiet, but it seemed that there was always someone who was restless or just needed someone to talk to. Volunteers were there to listen. At the end of the third shift it was time to wake the guests up. By 6:00am the coffee was made and people were up, getting ready to face another day. Some had jobs to go to, others just prepared to wander the streets. And the clean-up crew sanitized the beds so that they would be ready for the next night.

Serving the homeless in this way has not been the most glamorous volunteer opportunity, but it was much needed. Many of the guests would express their gratitude regularly, while others would simply come and go. Either way, as Christian (or followers of Christ) we are called to love God and love others. And that’s exactly what we did.