Updated: Mar 11
Written by Jan Foster, Volunteer & Member of the Board of Directors
I was asked to explain to a group of Walla Wallans why the Sleep Center volunteers keep on volunteering in spite of heat, cold, dirt and discouraging personal relations.
So I asked around among them. Their answers represent an interesting diversity of points of view:
1. Ad majorem gloriam Dei
2. Out of thankfulness—there but for the grace of God go I
3. Because all human beings deserve humane treatment
4. Because it’s a way I can put my professional training to use for the community
5. Because I feel joy when somebody works himself out of homelessness
6. Because I’ve been homeless myself, so I sympathize with our clients
7. Because working with this great group of volunteers gives me hope
8. Because many of the folks at the Sleep Center are likeable, and some are lovable
Okay, so far, just what you might expect, right? But then:
9. Because my doing this work pleases my spouse
10. Because my doing this work annoys my spouse
11. To show my kids how citizens should act
12. To get away from my kids for a while
13. As penance for sins I committed in the past
14. As prepayment for sins I look forward to committing in the future [same person as #12]
At this point I stopped asking and started laughing.
As for me, it’s the City itself that is powerfully attractive: we exemplify great diversity within a small compass. There are only about 33,000 of us here, on only about thirteen square miles of ground. You’d think, with numbers like that, that things would be pretty much all-samey in every sector. Not so, however.
Our economy is largely agricultural, but in its approach it’s strongly experimental, innovative, and strategic, with a couple of international ag-tech firms headquartered here.
We have, on the one hand, a well-used County lock-up and a state penitentiary, but on the other, two public and three private high schools and three institutions of higher learning.
Our citizens are about 75% Anglo and 25% Latino, but little by little the idea of bilingualism as a good thing is taking hold.
In every neighborhood, up-scale or down, there are some houses in good shape, some being remodeled, and some falling apart shingle by shingle.
Letters to the Union-Bulletin express the full spectrum of political and social views from the sublime to the ridiculous.
See what I mean about our diversity? And yet we are as communal as possible. In every neighborhood, no matter what the neighbors think of each other, if somebody doesn’t appear for a few days, if somebody’s vehicle isn’t moved, if somebody’s trash-bin doesn’t get brought out to the street, someone else will knock on the door, checking if that person is okay. Right?
And yet, diverse though we are, we share three fundamental beliefs:
First, that for somebody to die of cold and hunger in our town would shame us indelibly.
Second, that our laws should both bind everybody and serve everybody, should keep all of us, regardless of our circumstances, secure in our lives and property.
And third, that if given even minimal support, some of the least fortunate among us will fight their way out of poverty.
So here’s why I volunteer:
To serve this unique City in its three core principles
To see the three principles alive and at work in the community, every day
I’m hoping we can keep this going.
So, now, do you think you might like to volunteer with the Walla Walla Alliance for the Homeless? We have many things that need to be done - from helping with Laundry day, to assisting with the new Shower Trailer, to helping someone write a resume! And then there are always those Volunteers who love to cook dinner for 45 people and bring it to the Sleeping Center to see the smiling faces and sincere "thank yous".
If you'd be interesting in working with us, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to talk to you if you have 2 hours per month to volunteer, or 20 hours per week! There's always plenty to do here!