Suzi Ellington introduced me to Hope Street. I think she first took me to some type of event at Dawn Kaine’s house (both are hugely in love with Hope Street). I found interesting information… and then I went to a women’s luncheon, then an open house, and pretty much by then had also fallen in love with Hope Street and was trying to find a way that I could be useful to Hope Street. It’s hard when you’re a working mom to come up with “extracurricular” time. Anyway, over the years I kept going back for more, did at least one Serve Saturday (such an easy and fun way to get your toes wet in volunteering at Hope Street). Finally, the big straw that broke my camel’s back was when Suzi asked me to help her with an Alpha Course at Hope Street on Thursday mornings. Turns out (or perhaps this is how Suzi planned it), Thursday is my only day off, so YES, I can spend time at Hope Street on Thursday mornings. This time my perspective, and my life, was pretty much changed forever.
SIDE NOTE: I have never experienced a place that is easier to "volunteer" with. They will match your available time with your ideas and their needs, and all with no commitment... I mean... you WILL be back once you go... but that's because your soul will drag you back there!!!
Over the years (even prior to Hope Street) I had worked hard to understand the inequities between life in the inner city and life in the suburbs. My dear friend Karen, who is the Executive Director of the Food Pantry of Waukesha County, had told me many, many years ago, that “one only knows what they know.” I used that argument often when I would hear people around me saying things like, “Why don’t they just get a job?” or “Why don’t the parents participate at their children’s schools?” or “Everyone has the same opportunity.” I already knew that was not as easy as it sounds. Without the right example, without resources, without even understanding that there CAN be hope, it’s definitely not as easy as it sounds. I think I was effective in changing many minds, or at least helping them to consider a different perspective.
**Got off track here! The main thing I want to say is that I am not “volunteering” at Hope Street. After being with my new, and some of my favorite, friends who live at Hope Street, I am WELL AWARE that I have become a part of this hopeful, positive, loving community. I am not separate from it. Hope Street’s people are MY people. I love them. To imagine the distance they have come to get to where they are now, with something as easy as belonging to the Hope Street Community, and understanding that they ARE the beloved (plus a lot of hard, hard work to maintain their good habits and grow toward a better future), blows my mind most days. In hanging out on 26th and Capitol with these kind, good, God-loving friends of mine, I cannot even imagine that they have had some of the struggles they have had. These are QUALITY humans. The past couple of years, I have added another Hike for Hope and a couple Family Reunions, a Shechem groundbreaking, and other fun events to my list of must-go-tos at Hope Street, as well as joining the Shechem Committee (while feeling oh, so inadequate in this position... still, I am welcomed).
And I PROMISE, I have gotten SO. MUCH. MORE. from my being part of this community than I could ever even begin to give to it.
So what have I gained? A deeper understanding, a look from the “inside,” something to look forward to every week, the chance to watch a community blossom and grow TOGETHER, and some friendships that make my heart hurt (in a good way) to even think about.
I have been BLESSED beyond measure.
(Hope Street Volunteer)