Maureen Hunter, a longtime site captain on Monday nights at First United Church of Oak Park, shares her experience as a volunteer.
"In 1998, my thirteen year-old son chose to do his confirmation service hours by volunteering at PADS and I, fortunately, decided to join him. Well, that teenager has matured to an adult, I have matured through middle age and PADS has grown and matured right along with us. When we began volunteering, PADS provided emergency shelter but few additional services. Now, the shelter sites are the hubs where guests are connected to the many PADS programs for support, homeless prevention, housing, and employment services. Simple conversations with guests can now evolve into a discussion of the PADS program, services and staff members that can provide assistance and direction.
These one-on-one conversations with the guests are the moments that I treasure. Their stories are familiar - the joys, pride, and struggles of being a friend, spouse, parent, grandparent, son, or daughter. I am consistently struck by the fact that their feelings and experiences are often not dissimilar from my own, however, I am able to process all those experiences in a home. PADS Shelter sites provide that sense of home to the homeless. Volunteers, staff members and fellow guests are all present to lend a helping hand, a kind word and a listening ear. The guests are always grateful for these kindnesses shared with them.
PADS emphasizes solutions to homelessness and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute, in a small way, to being part of that solution."