Like most non-profit organizations, the impact of LOTS is broadened and deepened through Volunteers. Before the pandemic, dedicated weekly daytime Volunteers brought added joy and life to the work we do and those we serve. The COVID precautions strained our capacity. For months we offered our services without Volunteers. In August, when a limited number of Volunteers were again allowed to be present, understandably many didn’t feel safe returning.
During these months two contrasting realities were felt keenly at LOTS. On the one hand, with Volunteers absent from our building, unable to personally assist in delivering essential services to, for us, unprecedented numbers of neighbors, the result of nearby agencies ceasing operations, each week’s end saw our staff fairly exhausted. On the other hand, numbers of Volunteers took on new efforts … albeit from a distance. LOTS was able to feed and clothe and mask as many people as we did because so many people delivered items they purchased and/or made to help our neighbors. Each week’s end also saw our staff inspired and profoundly grateful for the generously responsive helpers through whom God provided “enough”.
We asked several of our Volunteers who stepped up in this season of COVID to share a bit of what they’ve done, and why. They are not “better” than all the rest - rather, they are representative of dozens and dozens! We present their stories as a way both of honoring all our Volunteers and in hopes others will be motivated to join us at LOTS, as well.
Katie Walmsley knew of LOTS before the pandemic through her congregation, St. John the Divine. As a former teacher and recent empty-nester Katie was looking for a way to get back to her passion of volunteering and giving in a mission-oriented way. She reached out to us when she heard we had safely reopened our building to welcome Volunteers and that we needed help! She came for a tour and an evaluation. “I didn’t know what to expect, or what I was going to encounter. I had never really volunteered with the homeless before.”
Katie began volunteering at our LOTS building in Midtown shortly after the start of the year, first by serving food to the neighbors out our front door. Her natural warmth was on display in cheerful greetings and responsiveness to requests made of her. She says she likes to welcome all the neighbors and loves that she can build relationships with each person she interacts with. But she has also enjoyed discovering that LOTS provides far more services than she had been aware of, and has now tried pitching in to help with food prep and mail services and, recently, even took a turn with the Clothing and Hygiene Center. She says, “I discovered that this is a kind of community, that everyone that works and volunteers at LOTS truly wants to help. They are kind and caring and want to interact with neighbors and each other in meaningful ways.”
We asked Katie what the impact of volunteering at LOTS these past few months has been on her own life. “It has allowed me the opportunity to connect with the community and build relationships with people different than my normal circle in meaningful ways. I have come to see they are regular folks, who want to be treated like regular people.” She calls it a “humbling experience” and something that anyone can find meaning in. Katie decided to add an additional volunteer day to her schedule so she can continue to give in more ways.
She has some words of encouragement for anyone wanting to try volunteering: “There are so many different ways to volunteer with LOTS. It’s not just about serving food. You can choose to have direct contact with neighbors or indirect contact. … Don’t be afraid, just dive in! Try it, and see what you think."
Volunteers Andrea and Stephan Badot. Through their efforts with Good Shepherd Kingwood, their friends, and family, they have delivered more than 10,000 lunch packs to LOTS neighbors since the beginning of the pandemic.
Andrea and Stephan Badot have taken a different approach to volunteering. The Badots also knew of LOTS through their congregation, Good Shepherd in Kingwood. Before the pandemic they had been part of their congregation’s support of LOTS as members of teams cooking or serving breakfast for LOTS’ neighbors occasionally on Sundays. When the pandemic hit, hearing that LOTS was going to stay open for the sake of their neighbors, they knew they wanted to continue to serve in any way they could.
They decided to help with food. Due to concerns about safety, with help from a few members of their family they assembled and delivered 100 lunch packs each week for a couple of weeks by themselves. They soon realized that wouldn’t be enough to meet the growing need, and enlisted more volunteers. They invited those in their church community with the same desire to join them. For safety, they requested a larger space at their church and have led a group that since April 2020 has assembled and delivered 200 lunch packs for LOTS neighbors every week. As of April 2021 they have provided LOTS with over 10,000 lunches.
Their church community, including friends and family outside the church, have supported these efforts, from fundraising to assembly and delivery - a true team effort. Stephan does the shopping on Friday. The group of volunteers (some days more than on others) gather on Sundays after church to assemble the packs. Three ladies have succeeded their son and daughter-in-law in now driving them to LOTS on Mondays. The Badots say the process is quick, easy, and serves as an opportunity to safely gather and fellowship with others, while giving back to those in need. Andrea and Stephan are eager to share what they’ve learned, and are happy to connect with anyone who wants to start a similar program within their church or other group. Contact them through Will Symmes at LOTS to learn more (firstname.lastname@example.org).
No one yet knows what all post-pandemic life and ministry will be like at LOTS. What we do know is that we will still need the contributions of onsite and offsite Volunteers. Andrea & Stephen Badot and Katie Walmsley are but two different examples of how you can serve, and we ask you to consider joining us, finding a way that suits you and makes a Life-giving impact in our LOTS neighbors.
Combining life-saving relief with Life-giving relationships.