As someone who grew up serving his community, be it through Scouts or elsewhere, seeking out opportunities to give back to my new home has been important to me. Thankfully Duckpin encourages employees to volunteer via its Volunteer Time Off (VTO), which is pretty awesome and progressive. Each year Rollers are given the chance to take two days off to participate in a service project of their choice. Such a benefit helps maintain some perspective on life outside the office.
For my first VTO day of 2019, I participated in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day activity facilitated by Baltimore-based Heart’s Place Services. The organization, which ran an emergency shelter in the city from 1988 to 2012, now lives on as a provider of weekend packs of food for homeless children. According to a 2017 survey conducted by Youth Reach Maryland, 1,690 unaccompanied homeless youth reside in Baltimore City with many having no sustained source of food or shelter. Such statistics, however, only scratch the surface, as I was to learn during my time volunteering alongside my fellow Baltimoreans.
Perhaps a divine sign of sorts, the morning began on a blustery and frigid note with temperatures dipping below freezing. Such weather does wonders for prompting reflection on the realities of the people I was about to serve. Thankfully this did not deter me too much, and it hastened my walk to Lovely Lane United Methodist Church where we would be packing the bags.
Upon entering I was warmly greeted by other participants as if they had known me for years, which instantly alleviated my nerves. After introductions, the organizing team, which I had connected initially with via Nextdoor, got me right to work with carrying bags of groceries into the church’s hall and setting up packing stations. Over the coming hours, about 75 people cycled through to help with different shifts. Individuals joined from the general community and a civic organization, the Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Each of the volunteers packed reusable bags with the food items laid out on tables and assembled 450 in total. The finished products would be distributed later in the day across Baltimore.
Though it was only a single-day activity, volunteering with other city residents provided a nice change from my usual office environment. More importantly, it helped me connect with the wider community and educated me about a local social issue that does not often make the news, yet involves one of humans’ most basic needs: sustenance. I would encourage those reading this post to learn more about this topic and devote some of your free time to helping out.