What Do Volunteers Do?
Prospective volunteers, in an effort to better understand the work of the volunteers, often ask what a day at the houses is like.
First, it is important to understand that Annunciation House is a volunteer organization, and that the volunteers live and work in the houses; volunteers receive no compensation in their first year, and longer-term volunteers receive only a stipend. The volunteers at the houses work under the supervision of the House Coordinator, a volunteer who has typically worked at the house for at least a year. The volunteer staff is responsible for the operation of the house, attending to the needs of the guests, coordinating the meals, picking up food donations, doing house and car maintenance, and all the other things that necessary to maintain a house of hospitality for 50 people.
At times, Annunciation House makes use of community volunteers. These are people from the local community who make themselves available for a few hours each week to do a guest-servant shift, help in the office, and/or work on specific projects such as building maintenance, car maintenance, or guest recreation.
Volunteers have four main areas of responsibility: guest-servant shifts, being a contact person, weekly rotations, and permanent rotations. The guest-servant is the person immediately responsible for the operation of the house. The House Coordinator makes a weekly schedule with each day divided into two guest-servant shifts, a morning shift from 6am to 2pm, and an evening shift from 2pm to 10pm. The guest-servant will find him or herself answering the phone, welcoming new guests, checking on meal preparations, applying bandages to a guest’s wound, distributing laundry soap, or finding a spot for a recent donation. Volunteers hesitate to label any shift or day as typical or normal. Each guest, each day is new and so too each guest-servant shift is a new opportunity to learn how to love and serve.
In addition to guest-servant shifts, volunteers also serve as contact person. Each new guest welcomed into the house is assigned a contact person -a volunteer who works with him or her individually to clarify and resolve their situation. Each guest is asked to plan the next step in their life or journey. The house works to foster the independence, responsibility, and ability of the guests to solve their problems. A contact person may show a guest how to use a phone, for example. Guests in need of medical attention are accompanied to local clinics or hospitals where health care arrangements are made. Parents of school-age children are assisted in registering their children in one of the neighborhood schools. Befriending, listening, questioning, suggesting, explaining, and translating, are all part of the work of the contact person. This is hospitality on a personal level.
Weekly assignments and special projects (holiday plans or putting together a party, for instance) are divided and rotated among the volunteers to assure that the house is ready for guests. Weekly rotations include House Laundry, House Guest Recreation, and House Safety Inspection.
Some of the house responsibilities involve a period of learning that would be too overwhelming if the job were a weekly rotation. Hence, each volunteer is assigned a permanent job, which they keep for the length of their commitment. For example, one volunteer is in charge of keeping the food pantry stocked and in order. Another volunteer oversees the clothing bank. Other volunteers are in charge of house records, bookkeeping, and house maintenance.
Of all the works that the volunteers are asked to offer, none is more important than that of being a welcoming presence to those who come. This is the work of listening to the story that comes from the heart or playing with a lonely child, taking a walk with a runaway, or holding a baby for an overwhelmed mother. This is the work of living with those whom one must see as brother or sister, mother or father, son or daughter. It is the work of building community and creating family with those who hunger to belong and to hear someone say “yes” to them. This is the work that volunteers do that has no days and no time to measure its gift.
While offering hospitality is our primary work, there is other work that we do that volunteers might be asked to become involved in according to the house’s needs at any given time. The areas of this work includes: education, advocacy, and administrative support.
“If there is hunger anywhere in the world, then our celebration of the Eucharist is somehow incomplete everywhere in the world.” –Pedro Arrupe
Over the years, the work of Annunciation House has grown and the number of people coming to the house has increased greatly. Individuals coming to live and work at the house find that it takes them several months before they feel fully knowledgeable of all that it takes to be a good volunteer and servant of the homeless poor. For this reason, individuals wishing to volunteer at Annunciation House are expected to make a commitment to serve at the house for at least one year.
How To Apply
When applying, please include on the application any questions or concerns you have about the life and work of the house. Acceptance of volunteers is based on the guidelines below.