For almost four years, Lesley has volunteered with UMC. Every Friday morning she has been welcoming neighbors with a smile at the front desk, helping them get their mail and assisting in any way she can. For the last two years she and a few friends have been going to Moore Place three Mondays each month where they hang out for an hour with residents (who were all formerly homeless) to do arts and crafts or play games. I was fortunate enough to join them one Monday.
“I don’t ever dread going,” Lesley said. “You go and you feel good when you’re done.”
Lesley’s day job is in real estate and she gets the irony.
“I wanted to do something and needed to do something,” she said.
To understand more about her journey I asked a few more questions:
SHARE:What made you want to work with homeless neighbors?
Lesley: Liz Clasen-Kelly (former associate director of Urban Ministry Center and current executive director at Men’s Shelter of Charlotte) made me want to volunteer at Urban Ministry Center. When I met her, she told me all about the good works going on. She was so proud and passionate; I wanted to be a part of that. And honestly I was really selfish when I was younger. I really wanted to give back to my community. I wanted to do something that mattered and helped people. I didn’t think I could find that in a career, so volunteering was my way to make that happen.
SHARE:Have you learned anything about yourself over the last three years?
Lesley: I can make a difference and sometimes, it is simply by smiling at a neighbor or treating them with care and courtesy. I have found that knowing their names and calling them by their names, makes them feel good.
SHARE:Has your view of Charlotte changed during this journey?
Lesley: Good question – yes, there needs to be more affordable housing. It is crazy how many people I have met at Urban Ministry Center -- and just around town -- who have jobs yet cannot afford to live here. They are living in motels or nasty places and they work good jobs. Sometimes more than one job.
SHARE: What's one misconception about homelessness that you used to have?
Lesley: I used to get frustrated and wonder why they were not working. I now know that soooooooooooo many of our neighbors have mental and/ or physical disabilities that keep them from holding down a job. I love that Charlotte is doing “housing first” to get neighbors in safe and reliable housing and then working with them on their issues, addictions and disabilities. It is incredible to see the before and after pics of some of these folks!
Interested in volunteering? Search our opportunites now and find somewhere to plug in.
- Addie Rising
Throughout the month of February, SHARE Charlotte will explore homelessness in Charlotte by looking at the work of some of our nonprofit partners and their volunteers. Sign up now for our weekly email. We won't spam you. That's not cool.
|Homelessness in Charlotte|