Our names are Marah and Allison, two roommates who weekly volunteer at the Lawrence Community Shelter. Initially, we volunteered at the warehouse to run the community donation hours. At the start of the winter, we transitioned to handling meal distribution at the Econolodge off of 6th street. While both positions were rewarding in their own ways, working with the LCS staff at the Econolodge was a really uniquely gratifying placement. This position allowed us direct contact with some of the residents of the LCS, which really contextualized the impact of community service at the shelter.
Our duties at the Econolodge each week began with organizing the meals generously donated by the Sunrise Project, and making sure that each meal had everything needed. We were given a list with the number of residents per room, as well as any dietary restrictions. The Sunrise Project was able to accommodate all dietary restrictions so that each resident got a meal that worked for them. Additionally, each resident received a soda or water.
Coming to the Econolodge once a week for two hours, and knocking on all the doors of the residents allowed us to not only make sure everyone got a meal, but to get to know the residents and their kids. Each week we found ourselves looking forward to these interactions, and getting to hear about all of the exciting life updates. It was such a great experience to walk around and hear the sound of the kids laughing each Friday afternoon. Being able to develop particular relationships with different residents made it so that we really looked forward to volunteering every week. Volunteering on a Friday means volunteering after a whole week of intensive school work and stress. Rather than feeling like a chore, volunteering at the Econolodge has been a joy each week, and we always leave with smiles on our faces after such a positive experience.
After meal distribution hours were over, those of us volunteering usually had a lot of extra meal bags leftover. As to not waste food, those of us working decided to give the rest of the donated meals to the Days Inn meal distribution program run by the City of Lawrence. Observing how the City of Lawrence organized meal distribution in comparison to our experience with the community shelter really shined a light on how there needs to be more support focused on the displaced community coming from the local government. Overall, the experience confirmed that to really understand the depth of homelessness in Lawrence, the Lawrence Community Shelter is a great resource for everyone to learn more about the displaced community and contribute to the cause.
We love volunteering at the shelter, and we really appreciate all the opportunities the staff has provided us.
Allison and Marah