Though the pandemic has halted many volunteer opportunities, members of Congregation Beth Shalom still have found a way to help their neighbors in the community who are experiencing homelessness.
Bridge to Home has seen a dramatic increase in needs for services since the pandemic began, yet volunteers have decreased for that same reason, according to volunteer coordinator Randi Wyatt.
“Volunteers keep things flowing and help take the burden off of the staff,” Wyatt said. “We’ve been inundated with donations, which is great, but the staff is spread thin, so volunteers assist in relieving staff to do other things, such as organize those donations or interact with clients.”
While retired teacher Penni Perrault had been volunteering at the local homeless shelter for years, but when the pandemic hit and her synagogue was looking for ways to help the community, she knew the perfect opportunity.
“I had a lot of response from my synagogue … I was overwhelmed with their enthusiasm,” Perrault said. “So many (volunteered) that I formed four groups of people, and I could sign up for lunch (donations) about twice a week.”
The congregation began making 45-60 lunches a couple of times per week, and have continued to do so until now.
“We don’t make them together like we used to because of COVID, so people just literally drop stuff off at my house, and I drive the lunches over to Bridge to Home,” Perrault said, adding that other congregation members have instead given clothing or food donations for the shelter.
For Perrault, the experience has shown her how amazing the community is.
“The community has just come together to help people,” she said. “And Bridge to Home does so much for the community.”
Wyatt said Perrault has been the first one to sign up for the shelter’s meals.
“She’s been amazing and very great with communication,” Wyatt said. “She helps to get us what we need with group effort.”
It’s the Jewish concept of Tikkun olam, meaning “world repair” in Hebrew, that Perrault said has become synonymous with the notion of social action and the pursuit of social justice in modern circles.
“I feel privileged to be able to support our community efforts to try to make a small difference in this challenging world,” Perrault added. “What a community we live in — anyone with a little extra time and a big heart, can help this group.”
For more information about volunteering for Bridge to Home, visit btohome.org.