Megan Browder turned down Harrison Avenue and turned up the volume on her car radio as she passed the homeless man standing at the stoplight. His sign read “Anything Helps.” Megan started to notice the growing homeless population in her hometown of Centralia five years ago and she struggled with her thoughts and feelings about them. She found herself judging the people she saw carrying backpacks and cardboard signs.
Megan is always the first one to notice when someone needs help. Even as a girl in school, she would sit by the person eating alone. She found her thoughts about the growing homeless population were not indicative of the person she knew she really was inside. She started making a forcible effort to change her heart and begin loving everyone without judgment or qualifiers.
Her first step started when she volunteered to help at Hub City Mission’s Cold Weather Shelter. She listened to the stories of people who came in each night and got to know them as individuals. She recalls one night when a man told her about the day he lost everything. Before he traded his home for a tent, he was a respected doctor. He had a beautiful wife and two children. His son had Down Syndrome and needed a lot of care and supervision. One day, the doctor’s son left their home by himself and the beloved child walked into traffic. In an instant, the doctor’s world was shattered. Not able to cope with his guilt and loss, he started writing prescriptions for himself. His life unraveled piece by piece as he lost his job, his family and became more dependent on the drugs to keep him from feeling the pain of his grief.
When Megan heard the doctor’s story, she realized we are all one traumatic event away from feeling this doctor’s pain. She grew even more determined to bring hope and light to the homeless in her community. She found that asking “How can I help?” gave her many different opportunities to serve. A huge chance to really make a difference opened three and half years ago when Megan was asked to take over Hub City Mission’s Pantry Ministry. At the time, she felt overwhelmed by the responsibility and commitment this volunteer role would put on her. “I really felt God promise me that if I said yes, he would provide the margin I needed in my life to take on such an important job and I have a lot of help. Our volunteers are amazing,” she says. “I love them and couldn’t do this without them.”
The second Saturday of every month Hub City Mission provides Fresh Market for the community. The last Saturday of the month they give out food boxes from the Pantry. They also have volunteers that deliver food boxes to forty-six people who are homebound due to medical complications. These are all free services for those that apply.
Megan manages the events and volunteers on both Saturdays, as well as a packing day on the Friday night before the pantry boxes go out. She orders all the food from Food Life Line and Northwest Harvest. She does all this while continuing to serve at the shelter regularly. The people she serves and the volunteers she works with inspire her and keep her going when things get stressful.
Megan recalls one morning when she arrived early to set up the pantry. It was still dark outside and as she worked, her thoughts turned dark too. She started questioning her role at Hub City Mission and wondered if anything she did made any difference. She doubted herself and her ability make any real impact on the problems facing the homeless in our community. Just then, a knock came at the door of the pantry. When Megan opened it, she recognized a man she met at the shelter many times before. “I saw you through the window,” he said to her. “I wanted to stop and tell you how grateful I am for all the work that you do. I found a job and a place to live recently and I couldn’t have done it without the support and help of Hub City Mission.” Megan began to cry as this man thanked her and gave her a tight hug. His story of hope arrived just when she needed it most.
There are many locations to volunteer in our community and there’s a place for everyone. If you have thought about volunteering, Megan wants to encourage you to be brave and make the first step by calling and talking to an organization you want to work with. They will be so happy to hear from you.
Start by taking baby steps. There are many places that have behind the scenes work for you to do. Get to know the other volunteers and start making friends who have the same interests. Listen to the stories of workers and the stories of the people you are serving. Megan recommends taking a friend or family member with you. Sharing the experience with a loved one may make you feel more comfortable and can be very rewarding. Wherever you decide to work in your community, follow your heart, serve with love and remember, anything helps.
Hub City Mission