Updated: Oct 27, 2021
How did you get involved with Dorothy Day House?
I was working for a local magazine, Bay Nature, and that was important and good work, but telling stories about local nature wasn’t the same as direct service. This was around Christmas 2004, when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck. There wasn’t a lot I could do in the face of that globe-spanning tragedy, but it forced me to step back and see there was so much more I could do right here in the East Bay. How could I directly help people I might pass on the street as I rode my bike to the magazine’s office in West Berkeley? I went on VolunteerMatch.com to see where I could be of service. Dorothy Day House happened to be on my way to work at the time, so that is how it all began, 17 years ago. I started volunteering on Friday mornings and I have been doing it ever since.
Why are you drawn to human services as a volunteer? And, what keeps you at Dorothy Day House?
That’s a good question! In my work I’ve always been more of a maker of things than a helper of people. I’ve made magazines, websites, maps, cabinets, and furniture. Things used by people, but I’ve never worked in direct service myself. But my parents are both in healthcare – my dad was a doctor, and my mom is a palliative care nurse. When I was a kid, she was the director of the hospice in my hometown. She always inspired me. She taught me that we have not just the responsibility but also the ability to help other people and to make the world a better place. Even if we can help only in small ways, those ways matter.
Early on when I was first volunteering at Dorothy Day House, I was struck by how everyone who worked in the kitchen connected directly with our guests on a very human level. I soon learned that was in the fabric of the culture of the place — for anyone who needs our services and everyone who provides those services. The recipients knew that DDH would always be there — at the same time, at the same place, and not just ready but happy to serve. That reliability is a source of relief for folks who might not have a lot of certainty otherwise.
We really do have an incredibly compassionate and collaborative environment with our guests at all levels. At the staff and volunteer level, we are very interested in the individual and the collective happiness of everyone who comes through the organization’s doors. I so value that feeling of being part of a group of people who really care about the people that we serve as people and not just mouths to feed or numbers on a spreadsheet. We take the time to learn people’s history, perspectives, and personalities. This has really become a community of people I know and people I consider my friends.
Why do you feel comfortable donating to Dorothy Day House?
The fact that everyone involved in the organization, from the board to the staff to the volunteers, is there first and foremost to help and serve folks that we consider our friends and neighbors. That means everyone has a personal stake in making sure every donation we get translates into the most effective support it can for the unhoused people of Berkeley. That might mean extra effort to get more food donated from local bakeries and restaurants. It might mean a new partnership with another organization that can do something more efficiently than we can. Whatever will help the most, the staff at DDH will find a way to make it happen.
You can help Dorothy Day House maintain the choice and dignity of each person that comes through our doors. Will you consider contributing to our 10k in 10 Days challenge?