February 13, 2012

14 Days of Valentines - DAY 13


Over the past couple of weeks, I've been using the 14 Days of Valentines not only to go out on dates with my husband but also to share love with my friends and neighbors. I've handed out small valentine notes and cupcakes to friends, met them for some quality time and treats, met some new single friends across the country and have shared talks about love, and I even managed to spend some time with some family. It's been such a treat!
But tonight really topped all of those efforts when my husband and I spent the evening volunteering with a giving grassroots group known as the Monday Night Mission, which hands out food to the homeless people staying the night on Skid Row, which is the home base to thousands of Los Angeles' homeless.
The Mission was the brainchild of a man named Mel, who took a wrong turn on the way home one night and ended up driving by Skid Row. He saw a hundred homeless people lining the street, wandering with sullen eyes and few belongings. He saw the needs of his neighbors and wondered, "How can I help?"
He headed to the nearest Burger King, bought ten hamburgers, and drove back to Skid Row. He went back again, this time with a couple friends and a few dozen sandwiches.
His idea grew into what it is today. Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Mel arrives at that same Burger King at 7:00pm. This time around 30 people join him, strangers who've heard about the mission and just want to help. The volunteers arrive with bread, peanut butter, jelly, water bottles, fruit, chips, and clothes. We all stand outside the Burger King and introduce ourselves. Somehow, Mel remembers everyone's name.
We each begin making sandwiches and putting them in baggies. By my side was a family from Long Beach - parents who wanted their 16-year-old daughter to learn about the privileges that some people have and others don't. We then carpooled to Skid Row, unloaded our goods, and began handing out food to our homeless neighbors. One by one they introduced themselves and received their food with a smile.
For my husband and I, this evening ended up being more than a date. We were able to meet strangers and help make a difference, even if it were just for one night.
While there are plenty of "official" non-profit volunteer websites and activities advertised around the country, I found out about the Monday Night Mission through Craigslist under the "volunteer" section.

What kind of volunteer dates could you do in your city?

photo source: Monday Night Mission 

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