By Nicole Amling
When you ask Shawn about his favorite part of volunteering at The Night Ministry’s Open Door Shelter, an interim housing program for homeless youth, the answer is easy. “It’s interacting with the kids and the other volunteers. I love getting to know them and building relationships,” says Shawn. Once a month, Shawn and other volunteers gather at the shelter to cook dinner and interact with the youth. While teaching the youth life skills (“like how to cut garlic – it’s hard, you know?”), Shawn and the volunteers provide a family-like dinner environment. They tell jokes, talk about their days, and listen to one another. Shawn cares about the youth’s thoughts and dreams, and challenges them to do more and think bigger.
Shawn moved to Chicago in 2015 with two goals: find an easy way to volunteer, and join a dodgeball league. Within one week, he had done both. He was amazed at how easy it was to sign up and volunteer, as compared to other organizations where you had to jump through a lot of hoops.
“I love that Chicago Cares has an easy platform to help people help people,” he says. “That is what is so special about Chicago Cares.”
Shawn has volunteered at all sorts of programs – from senior breakfasts to working with children to interacting with ex-offenders. He recruits friends to come volunteer with him, and has made a lot of new friends volunteering side-by-side with people he wouldn’t have otherwise met. He is proud to have reached his goal of volunteering 100 hours last year! As Meredith Weber, Chicago Cares’ Manager of Ongoing Volunteer Program, notes, “Shawn’s enthusiasm for Chicago Cares and dedication to his projects are absolutely contagious.”
Shawn encourages everyone thinking about volunteering to “just go on the [Chicago Cares] website. You’ll find a project that works for you, I promise.” That’s what he did and it has transformed his life for the better.
“Volunteering is cool because it’s so mutually rewarding.”