Why volunteer? Ask Dolph!

Feeling you haven’t done anything special in a long time?  Tired of the same routine at work, gym, in traffic?  Reached some of your life goals but wondering what it’s all for?  Or newly-retired, and looking for new pursuits? 

If you are at all like me (human, with one heart, two eyes, two hands, etc.), you might consider donating a few hours a week or month to the A Hope Day Center operated by Homeward Bound of Asheville.  My story (in brief):  I retired in 2010 from a career in banking and finance, relocated to the Asheville area, and looked for ways to serve the community.  I heard Center Director Heather Spencer introduce A Hope to a local church group, and I raised one of those hands (see above).  Heather introduced me to the Day Center staff, and I was hooked.

One morning a week, for about the past eight months, I have helped serve the diverse clientele who come to the Center’s door.  No day or hour is the same.  New questions and needs arise each morning.  Each client has his or her own story, challenge, and life hope.  Volunteers and staff alike face a continuous flow of energy from individuals who are hungry for just the basics:  soap and towel for a shower, detergent to launder clothes, a touch of first aid, or a private bin to store a few precious belongings.  The roar of life coming in off the street is both tiring and thrilling.  You will wonder if you can stand the din, but then look forward to the next act.

At the outset of my volunteering at the Center, I struggled to learn all of the many services offered to the 250-300 daily visitors, and the many entitlements that others offered to the clientele.  Stalwart members of the permanent staff – a valiant brigade of calm professionals – were always available to fill in the blanks.  Tiring and bewildering at times?  Frustrating to not fill all the myriad needs?  Of course.  Leg muscles quivering with fatigue after 4-5 hours of serving the public?  You bet.  But the return on that investment has been infinite:  the look of thanks for providing a clean pair of socks, or explaining how Center staff could assist in obtaining a new ID; the ‘God-Bless-You’s’ for simply providing some antiseptic or assisting the man in a wheelchair to get coffee.  And the thrill of contributing a bit of your own unique skills: in my case, perhaps some stumbling translation of a client’s Spanish inquiry for a staff member.

Each person you greet at the Center has a story of hardship and bad luck, but they all find hope in the countless small acts of giving that fill the hall.  Most are burned, bitten and bruised by the streets and by their rough camp sites, but most find a foothold to take the next step, the one that begins the journey home.

Warning: hope is infectious.  Come into the Center, empty yourself of all that boredom and anxiety, add your energy to the parade coming through the door, and you just might catch the spirit.  I did.  This disease might put psychiatrists and cardiologists out of business.

–Adolph A. Hoehling