More than just giving back

More than just giving back

Josie Janowicz, Staff Writer

Whenever I have asked about where to go volunteer for NHS hours, I’ve always been steered in the direction of Feed My Starving Children and Bernie’s Book Bank, two of the most common organizations that students go to to achieve service hours. However, there are many other groups that go unrecognized, meaning, not only do they not get the help they need, but they also lack the resources to help the people that they are serving. 

Every month I volunteer at the Holy Family Soup Kitchen in Waukegan. I have been going for about six years since my family and I moved to Lake Forest. I volunteer with a group that is connected to the Church of St. Mary, but there are always volunteers there who are not affiliated with the parish.

During all these years, going to the soup kitchen has really changed the way that I view service. 

While organizations like FMSC and Bernie’s Book Bank are great organizations to volunteer at, there are tons of people that go to help out. In 2021, FMSC had 477,486 volunteers in total from all their locations; that same year, Bernie’s Book Bank distributed 1.5 million books. 

These large numbers really put me in awe of people’s kindness and willingness to help. In spite of that, there are only about 20 people volunteering at the soup kitchen on a regular basis: the regulars who are always there, and occasional new people. Us regulars all know the drill and work like a well-oiled machine, but new help is much needed. 

It’s disappointing that new faces are rare because I personally get such a better feeling of helping out when I go to the soup kitchen rather than any of the other organizations. There is much more interaction because you see the people that you are handing out food to.

When I handed her the cake, her face lit up like no one I’d ever seen in all the years I’d been helping out.

Recently, I went to volunteer at the soup kitchen and felt a true connection to a lady who asked for meals for herself and her family. We gave her the meals and asked her if she wanted any of the extra food we offer such as desserts, bread, or yogurt. Earlier in the day, someone had dropped off a big birthday cake and since she told us she had four kids, we thought she would be the best person to receive the dessert. When I handed her the cake, her face lit up like no one I’d ever seen in all the years I’d been helping out. The genuine joy and happiness that she felt made my day.

Moments like these are why I always prefer going to the soup kitchen instead of FMSC or Bernie’s. While they are great organizations to go to get some service hours in, the connections that I have made at the soup kitchen mean a lot to me and keep making me want to come back.