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Mission volunteers have variety of opportunities for service

 


Mission volunteers have variety of opportunities for service

March 23, 2005       

By Michael DeBorja*

NEW YORK (UMNS) — United Methodist Volunteers in Mission often is associated with building and repairing schools, homes and churches, but the program offers many kinds of service opportunities.

This winter, for example, 19 youth and adults from the North Central New York Annual (regional) Conference traveled to New York City to serve people who are poor, hungry and homeless.

The trip was organized by Sylvia Reimer, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist who has led teams to rural work camps but wanted to raise awareness of the needs in urban settings.

On Feb. 24, the group checked in at the International Youth Hostel on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The following afternoon, with sleeping bags in tow, they took the subway down to the Youth Services Opportunities Project office at the Friends Meeting House near Union Square. The project is the largest provider of student volunteers to agencies that work with people who are homeless and hungry in New York.

Robyn Vogel, the work camp leader, talked with the participants, which included a group of high school students from the city, about stereotypes of the homeless and the reasons why some people are homeless.

Later, the group visited with and served a meal to about 15 homeless people from Peter’s Place, a drop-in center. James Macklin, outreach director for the Bowery Mission, talked with the volunteers about how he lost his business because of cocaine addiction and was homeless for eight months.

One day, a young woman woke him while he was sleeping in the subway and handed him a card for the Bowery Mission, which gave him an opportunity to reclaim his life. Sometimes, one might not know the road one might have to travel, he told the group, adding that a smiling face can heal more than anything else can.

The volunteers were divided into seven service teams the next day, fanning across New York to places like Part of the Solution (POTS) in the Bronx. There, they helped repackage bread for the food pantry, prepare fruit juice and other food, wrap silverware, and serve and clean up after lunch.

Founded in 1982 by a Jesuit and a Sister of Charity, POTS runs a community dining room where food is served restaurant-style. Open 7 days a week, the program feeds 300 to 450 people a day.

Other teams helped out at St. Joseph’s Soup Kitchen in Greenwich Village, which serves lunch on Saturdays; University Community Soup, in the basement of Nativity Church in the East Village, which serves breakfast and lunch; St. Thomas Episcopal Church in midtown Manhattan, which distributes bag lunches; Park Avenue Christian Church, which serves lunch from a high-tech kitchen donated by Colonel Sanders; Open Door, a city-run, drop-in center near Port Authority Bus Terminal; Neighbors Together in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, which serves lunch to 300 people a day; and Christian Help in Park Slope (CHIPS), a Brooklyn soup kitchen. 

By the time the volunteers met together at the end of the day, they had served 1,912 people.

A list of volunteer opportunities around the world is available at http://gbgm-umc.org/vim/world.htm.

*DeBorja is a mission volunteers staff member for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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