The Ten Things You’ve Gotta do to Get and Keep Rockstar Volunteers
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“It’s made me cry seeing these big men who are ecstatic just to own a dishtowel. It gives them dignity. It’s amazing how a home can do so much.”
Written by: Anna Spady, anna.spadydesign.com — June 13, 2014
There was once a homeless man. One day, he found out he had cancer. He needed chemotherapy, but couldn’t get it because he didn’t have an address.
But SAVE, Inc. gave him a house key, a key that got him into remission. Until a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea what not having a home really meant. I assumed it just meant not having a place to hang your hat.
Fortunately, a recent bowl of Thai and conversation with Kristin Decker extinguished my naiveté forever. Decker serves on the Board of Directors for SAVE and also volunteers on their planning committee. Articulate, even while eating noodles, Decker explained the impact the organization can offer.
“They [clients] are so proud of their apartments. They don’t believe they really even deserve them. It’s made me cry seeing these big men who are ecstatic just to own a dishtowel. It gives them dignity. It’s amazing how a home can do so much.”
First, the lack of address affects job eligibility, subsequently cutting off income. It also makes getting an education or healthcare nearly impossible. Bottom line — once in, it’s difficult to get out.
The motto of SAVE is “Hope. Home. Dignity.” It offers a foothold out of the pit. Founded in 1986 as a hospice home to those suffering with aids, the nonprofit provided a roof to people kicked out of their own homes due to the stigma of their disease.
Twenty-eight years later, SAVE’s mission has expanded to include anyone who is “socially and medically disadvantaged.” Today, the majority of the people they serve are grappling with diabetes, mental health disorders and drug addictions. Overall, the organization’s goal is to house the homeless in a safe place where they “can regain their health and dignity.”
Quick Facts (courtesy of Sara Gardner, SAVE director of development and operations)
- Provides monthly housing support to 850 individuals and families.
- Gives $350,000 each month in rental assistance (money goes to small KC business landlords).
- 23% of the adults they serve have three or more chronic mental or physical health conditions.
- 87% of all adults on programs are living on less than $1,000 per month (many are zero income).
- SAVE is a local nonprofit, specific to the Kansas City area.
- In addition to housing, the organization offers life classes that teach essential skills like how to do laundry and balance a checkbook.
- Every fall the nonprofit hosts a homecoming fundraiser with fun themes like “Mad Men” and their upcoming “Velvet Underground.”
It’s so easy to believe that people who are homeless are just lazy, that these kind of things would never happen to us. So I asked Decker how doing this work had changed her.
“I realized you’re just one wrong turn from being in their situation,” Decker said. “I’ve learned not to be too quick to judge. To treat everyone with dignity. To share blessings.”
SAVE, Inc. is a Kansas City gem that shouldn’t be hidden. Spread the word. Support a fundraiser, tweet, like or post about it. Help give someone a welcome home.
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