Dana Perry and Chris Tran, NYC Civic Corps Members
Prior to our volunteer events, nerves are always high. Clients are pacing back and forth, wondering how to best navigate meeting a potential employer for the first time. Volunteers are helping clarify how to best traverse questions about gaps in employment and potential criminal history.
We are NYC Civic Corps members stationed at The Doe Fund, a workforce training program for homeless veterans, homeless individuals and formerly incarcerated individuals situated shelters in New York City. When we began our year of service, we pledged to "get things done" - but we didn’t know what to expect. Certain images are conjured up when one hears the term "homeless" - shopping carts, begging for change, sleeping in the streets, drugs, violence - the list continues.
Any reservations we had quickly slipped away when we were greeted with the smile of the security guard at the front desk of the Peter Jay Sharp Center for Opportunity. The men we’ve met though our year of service are educated, intelligent, polite, insightful and inspiring. They are hard workers, they are sons and fathers. And they have chosen to dedicate a year to improve their lives, raise themselves out of generational poverty and debunk society’s impression of a homeless man.
During our service year, we’ve been lucky enough to enhance the way The Doe Fund uses volunteers to improve the service they provide to their clients. Working with Career Development we structured Resume Building and Career Club events to engage both individual and corporate volunteers. We also assisted Adult Ed and Vocational Training to improve the mentoring and tutoring they provide. Additionally, we assisted with the upstart of a veterans mentoring program through John Jay College.
One of the things that we are most proud of was the launch of a client volunteer program. We took current clients of The Doe Fund and emphasized the value of giving back to your community with resounding success. Trainee volunteers now proctor the onsite computer lab, educate students through Youth Services Opportunity Project and gathered to engage in environmental responsibility during Hands on New York Day. Increased volunteer engagement has given community members the opportunity to meet these wonderful men. The response is inevitably the same from both the clients and volunteers: "I didn’t know what to expect before I met you, but you’re just like me."