By: Sophie Beal
Gateway Center hosts 70-100 volunteers weekly–each providing valuable help for us and our clients by painting dorms, making sandwiches, installing bike racks, serving meals, planting flower beds, giving manicures, sorting donations, editing resumes, singing karaoke . . . and the list goes on. Working with partners in our community is central to our core mission as an organization. We just wouldn’t be the Gateway Center without you!
Making a sandwich for someone in need, however, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Gateway’s volunteer education program. Bec Cranford, our brilliant and talented Volunteer Coordinator, works hard to both educate and empower every volunteer who comes through our doors to make a difference, debunk stereotypes, and end homelessness in their own communities. For you see, while it is the Gateway Center’s mission to end homelessness and change the lives of our clients, we also believe strongly that change in the lives of our volunteers is possible through dedicated service and relationships built under our roof.
Here are a few accounts from SOGETI volunteers about their experience serving and learning at Gateway last week:
Jessica: Overall, very uplifting and eye opening experience. It really showed me some of the many challenges that people struggle with and definitely broke down some of the stereotypes that I have created about people who are homeless. I’m glad that I was able to volunteer at such a positive and productive organization that is doing so much to help the needy people of Atlanta. I just wish I could have stayed longer!
Sandy: While volunteering with the Gateway Center, I gained a very positive and enlightening experience. Before the service, I had an uneducated view of people impacted by chronic homelessness. As I interacted more closely with Gateway clients, my perspective shifted. I learned that several of the clients had experienced continual job lay offs caused by economic down times and that many clients had families. I also learned that the causes of chronic homelessness are not always the effects of poor decisions; many suffering from chronic illness are the result of mental disabilities and/or unequal opportunities. I have come away from the service with a better understanding and stronger compassion. I hope to go back to Gateway with more volunteers to educate others!
Heather: Upon arrival at the Gateway Center, I was very nervous and uncomfortable. I was frantically calling Bec, the volunteer coordinator, to let her know we were running late because I didn’t want to walk in by myself. After other Sogetians arrived, I was starting to ease up, but was still a little uncomfortable. After walking through the doors of the Gateway Center, all my nervousness disappeared and I actually felt safe. Bec pulled us aside to give us a background on the facilities and what we could expect from our experience. She told us to have an open heart and open mind when speaking with their clients. Throughout the night, I got more smiles and “thank you ma’am(s)” for just filling up someone’s cup. Everyone was so grateful for our presence and I felt honored that they accepted me into their community. They helped us squash the stereotypes of the homeless and understand everyone goes through a rough patch in our lives. Some of us are just fortunate enough that we had a shoulder to lean on and get us back on our feet. The Gateway Center offers this shoulder that everyone so desperately needs.
When asked to describe the most satisfying part of her job coordinating volunteers at Gateway, Bec described,
Watching students have an ‘a-ha’ moment. When they get it that we should care for those around us
and love our neighbor and care for people who are being marginalized.“
So come on down(town) to Gateway! We’d love to learn and serve with you. To secure a spot on our volunteer schedule, please contact Bec Cranford at (404)215-6651 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org! Also, give us a Like on Facebook and/or Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for fun pictures, interesting articles, and to keep up with all things Gateway!