Volunteer Spotlight - Lessons Learned Around the Dinner Table
Residents in YouthCare housing, like most young people, have to do chores like taking out the garbage and mopping the floor; like most young people, they sometimes need a few reminders. But at YouthCare’s Catalyst Program, there is one task that needs no prodding – washing the aluminum baking pans after the weekly “Community Meeting.” This may sound like a dirty job, but to residents, the clean pans stacked neatly on top of the fridge mean that volunteers Kaci and Mike are ready to come back to Catalyst.
Since 2011, Kaci and Mike Bleau have been steadfast volunteers, bringing a meal every Monday night for the community meeting, during which all residents and staff gather together, eat dinner, and touch base about how things are going at the house. The last hour of the meeting usually contains a life skills lesson, such as financial literacy.
Mike and Kaci first learned about volunteering at YouthCare after reading an article about our work. They were inspired to volunteer by their involvement with their church; since Mike is a professional chef, they offered to prepare meals for our youth. Our volunteer coordinator matched them to Catalyst, and the rest is history: they have helped provide a meal almost every single Monday for 22 months, equaling more than 350 hours of volunteer service between the two of them!
Much more than the numbers, however, is their consistent, predictable presence. Youth who have had a life of uncertainty learned they could depend on Kaci and Mike to show up every Monday – an important part of building trusting, healthy relationships with others.
As the residents got to know these two special volunteers, and as Kaci and Mike became more comfortable in the house, the couple began staying to eat with the residents, joining them for games and conversation. In fact, it was a competitive game of “Rock Band” that allowed Mike to really get to know some of the residents. And as these seemingly small interactions continued, youth saw what it meant to volunteer and what it meant to interact positively with caring adults.
Today, we are sad to bid farewell to Kaci and Mike as they embark on a new chapter in their lives, which will take them to Portland. While we will miss them, we’re grateful for their ongoing commitment to our young people, and will use this as an opportunity for another life skills lesson: keeping in touch. Thank you Kaci and Mike, and good luck on the next step!