Meet Melvin Bridgmon, your May Chicago Cares Leader of the Month. Melvin has been a leader with Chicago Cares for three years, serving as both a Volunteer Leader and a Primary Leader for Serve-a-thon and Celebration of Service. Melvin has been a leader at his former elementary school, Betsy Ross in Washington Park, twice.

Many of his experiences including being a veteran and being homeless have led him to Chicago Cares as well as the other organizations of service where he spends his time. Melvin is the President/CEO of Thomas Bridgmon Outreach Ministries. Melvin started this outreach ministry in 2009, which helps address the hunger issues homeless individuals experience on the weekends. He is currently a student at Olive-Harvey College majoring in Computer Sciences. We are proud to have Melvin as a leader and we are inspired by his dedication to Annual Events and his overall service to the Chicago community.

Chicago Cares: Melvin, can you share with us how long you have been volunteering with Chicago Cares and what projects you have led?

Melvin: I have been a volunteer leader for three years. My first role as a leader was leading the letter murals project at Scott Joplin during Serve-a-thon 2010. The following year, I lead the same project at Betsy Ross during Serve-a-thon 2011. I was very proud to participate at Betsy Ross because I am an alumnus of Betsy Ross. In 2012, I returned to Betsy Ross as a Primary Leader during the Celebration of Service.

Chicago Cares: The impact that volunteers such yourself can have serving in their own communities is tremendous! What has motivated you to devote your time to volunteering and leadership?

Melvin: As a veteran and formerly homeless individual, I received help from people who cared about my condition. Their commitment inspired me to return the wealth of help through volunteering, by feeding the homeless, reading with children and tutoring individuals on using computer programs. Although Chicago Cares is my home, I volunteer with the Chicago Food Depository on food recovery events at McCormick Place. It is our job to help our neighbors.

Chicago Cares: What is your favorite neighborhood to serve as a volunteer?

Melvin: I really don’t have a specific neighborhood. Since I am on public transportation, I volunteer in an area that doesn’t require a long commute.

Chicago Cares: What is the biggest challenge you have faced as an Annual Events leader? How did you overcome it?

Melvin: I had a bad experience the first year I led a letter mural project. I was short of volunteers in order to finish my project on time. I had to work on two of the murals simultaneously. And a few of my volunteers claimed they had to use the wash room. I was left with four murals staring me in the face. Unbeknownst to me, they recruited their friends to help me. When my volunteers came back to work. They told me they had been watching me work. One of my volunteers got me a seat and told me to sit down and eat my lunch. Another volunteer took the leadership role. She told everyone else to direct all questions to her. It was a bad situation that turned out to be great.

Chicago Cares: What advice would you share with others who are interested in becoming a volunteer leader?

Melvin: Always place yourself the position of the person you are leading. Be compassionate, everyone’s time is precious. With that being said, volunteer your skills unselfishly. The reward is serving the best interest of our neighbors. Inspire everyone around you no matter how bad you feel. Sooner or later someone will cheer you on and make your day.

Congratulations to Melvin for being May’s Leader of the Month!

If you are interested in learning more about being a leader with our Annual Events Service Team like Melvin, contact Kim Thomas or call 312-780-0800 ext. 125. Registration is open for the 19th Annual Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon on June 9th, 2012!