Worth Repeating: Time to Give Back

Giving back continues to infiltrate my soul on a daily basis and light an amazing fire deep inside me.
I know that I blogged about it on June 9th (“Time to Walk the Walk”), but giving back – in any shape, form, or fashion – deserves another post. (And I PROMISE it won’t be the last.) I refuse to let my blog get stale, but I will continue to address this issue on a regular basis.
This is why:
In this post, I want to share one of my recent volunteer opportunities and tell a brief story about how one company took the emphasis off profits for one day and made it a point to give back.

VOLUNTEERING: An Intimate Introduction to Homelessness
Every Tuesday night for the last six weeks, I have served dinner at Safe Haven, which is the mentally ill wing of Presbyterian Night Shelter (PNS).
The Fact Sheet provided by PNS describes Safe Haven as, “The only place of its kind in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Safe Haven aims to establish a trusting relationship with clients, so they will utilize available mental and physical care at the nearby Mental Health Mental Retardation center.”
I have volunteered at the main shelter during the holiday seasons, but it doesn’t compare to this experience – with only 18 to 20 Safe Haven residents it’s more personal and intimate.
It’s a very special experience every single week, because all the residents are very appreciative and aren’t afraid to express it with words or a big smile.
Some of the residents are starting recognize me and remember that I’m there on Tuesday nights. They’ve even started to ask me questions – my favorite being, “What’s your name?”
Do you know what I like about the most? NOW, I know their name! (This probably won’t come as surprise to most people reading this blog, but I’m not afraid to use their name any chance I get. It’s like a free pass to the other side.)
After I help clean up at Safe Haven, I work in the main shelter’s dispensary for about an hour and a half. I pass out shampoo, soap, Tylenol, lotion, Tums – anything that has been donated to make the “clients” more comfortable.
Again, this has been a tremendous experience.
One at a time, a client sticks his or her head in the small, chest-high window and asks me for something they need and/or want.
“Dinner wasn’t great tonight…do you have any antacid?”
“Please tell me you have some foot powder.”
“OK…tell me what I need to help with this toothache.”
I am receiving a VERY personal introduction to the homeless community in Tarrant County. I might be passing out a disposable razor or a handful of tampons, but it’s helping me wrap my mind around one of society’s biggest problems.
When I drive home after a couple hours at the shelter, I think about Lawerence, Michael, Alice, Elizabeth, Lori, Benda, and the countless number who have introduced themselves and said “thank you.”
I know that I’m helping to a certain degree on Tuesday night, but I feel like I’m gathering valuable knowledge about how I can really help the homeless initiative.
Before I started volunteering at the shelter, I was introduced to a book by photographer Lynn Blodgett, which focuses on “The Face of America’s Homeless.”  After six short weeks, now I understand what they mean when they say, “But first: We must decide to look.”
CORPORATE GIVING: Profits take back seat
a few weeks ago.
Three words in the headline, “Social Responsibility Day,” caught my attention. (Otherwise I would have written it off as another company in the midst of layoffs, coming up short on its quarterly projections, or discussing a possible merger with one of its competitors.)
I went on to read how this Chicago-based company shut the doors of its 21 offices and gave back to communities across the United States and Canada, specifically to elderly residents who simply needed a helping hand.
Awesome, right? Just wait.
In the article, the president and CEO estimated that Convergint lost almost half a million dollars by shutting down its operations for one day. His response: A preferable outcome to “losing our heart and soul” in the pursuit of profits.
After weaving through their corporate web site for a few minutes – to find out what the heck Convergint Technologies actually did to make money – I stumbled across this verbiage: “Making a Daily Difference.”
It was like a breath of fresh air – a company that doesn’t just talk the talk. Anyone can slap those words on a web site or inside a brochure.
Will you actually close your doors?
Will you take a $500,000 hit against your profit margin?
Will you have the intestinal fortitude to really give back?
Just asking.

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