By Tina Michelle Cameron
If you follow my blog, you know that I am an advocate for paying it forward and for doing volunteer work. And, just like many people who want to volunteer with their families at Thanksgiving and Christmas time, such as serving meals to the homeless or at a shelter—I have always wanted to do that on those mornings. Unfortunately, with my work schedule and other demands in life, it never worked out or the shelters had no openings for volunteers. I know that is not a good excuse, as there are 363 other days that these shelters need help.
I am a nurse and have always wanted to help people and to care for them, it is just my nature. Well, I signed up a few weeks ago to volunteer at a shelter in Columbia called Transitions. It is in downtown Columbia at the site of a hotel that was torn down. It is a beautiful brick building that blends in with the rest of the buildings downtown. If you did not know what it is, you probably would not ever guess that it is a place for homeless people as well as others who are of various ages and stages in their life. Many have lost their jobs resulting in losing their homes, and some are people that live on the streets every day. Others have some income and a job, but need a place to stay for a few months to truly get back on their feet and in permanent housing.
I completed my orientation and walk-thru with the director last Wednesday, December 19th and served my first breakfast the next morning. We had 6 volunteers that morning and a nutritious breakfast to 100 people in 15 minutes. By the time I drove home an hour later, I knew this was what I wanted to do as a small way of helping people who are down on their luck.
Every single person that I served that morning, thanked every single one of us and told us how appreciative they were to have us get up on a cold, rainy morning and drive there to serve them breakfast. They wished us Merry Christmas, and all told us God bless you. Some were young, some were old, but they all were so thankful to have a hot meal and a place for a few hours or overnight to get out of the cold and wet weather.
According to their website and the amazing Community Outreach/ Event Coordinator, Cathy, Transitions was founded in 2011 and have been able to help 2,179 people find jobs and permanent housing. They have 240 beds- they have a day center that serves meals, they have a 30-day unit for men and women to stay short-term and then they have a much larger building to house people for several months to help them get back on their feet. They have numerous classes held daily to help with job skills, AA meetings and empowerment classes for women. They also have a raised vegetable garden that was created by a Boy Scout for his Eagle Scout project. Transitions is a non-profit organization and is the largest homeless center in Columbia, serving numerous counties in the state.
Please consider volunteering at Transitions. It is easy to sign up as a volunteer on their website. I am already excited to return. I am blessed to have a wonderful job, a beautiful family and home, but, many of us could be in the same boat and be 1-2 paychecks away from losing everything. Life is what you make it, mine is not perfect by any means, but I want to know I made a difference.