Student volunteers pitch in downtown
Leftovers from a meal cooked by volunteers sit on the table at the Shelter. Certain residents’ faces are not pictured to help protect their identities.
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For years, students on the Hill have engaged with residents at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter (MMHS) through volunteer work.
Colby Volunteer Center (CVC) Director Dana Roberts ’12 is a former CVC program leader for the CVC’s work in the MMHS. “The shelter has a very warm place in my heart,” Roberts said.
Roberts was at the Shelter to help the staff serve dinner, and afterwards had stayed to give toddler Sally a bath, while Sally’s mother attended to her younger sisters. “You come here and you make a connection with this work….She should have a home,” Roberts said of Sally.
Emma Creeden ’12 and Laura Maloney ’12 got involved with MMHS at the start of their sophomore year. The pair get up at the crack of dawn every Monday morning to cook and serve breakfast to the residents downtown. “I also love to play with the kids who are staying at the shelter,” Maloney said. “They love to sit on your lap and be hugged. You can tell they yearn for attention and comfort.”
Roberts’ involvement at the Shelter has changed her own appreciation of home and of money. “I’ve learned the value of a dollar,” she said, after volunteering and seeing what a relatively small amount of money can do for a family trying to build a home for themselves beyond the Shelter.
Her involvement in CVC has really impacted Roberts’ life. “I hope to get into a career with something that lets me give back,” she said. “And if it isn’t a career, then I know that service will be a part of my life from now on.”
For Maloney, she said her experiences at the Shelter have taught her a lot. “I have realized how much of a problem homelessness is in the greater Waterville area,” she said. “There is truly great demand, but it is also encouraging to talk to the residents about getting their GED and going to college or looking at the classified ads with them as they show you the apartments they are going to try to rent. These people have unfortunate situations in their lives, but it is encouraging to see them talk about improving their future.”
Creeden echoed Maloney’s sentiment, saying that her time at the Shelter has “furthered my understanding of the complexity of the human experience and, whether I realized this going into my volunteer work or not, [it] solidified for me the importance of listening and truly hearing someone’s perspective before making the all-too-common snap judgment.”
Volunteers at the Shelter agreed that their experiences have been eye-opening and incredibly rewarding. Creeden said, “Besides my old battles with the creaky, finicky dishwasher, one of my favorite memories is discussing the front page news of the Morning Sentinel with guests.” Note: Names of the homeless have been changed to help protect their identities.