A human service organization based in downtown Los Angeles
The Midnight Mission's Volunteer program is a vital part of our service delivery system. Annually thousands of individuals, church groups, employee groups and others come down to the Mission or our Family Housing Program to serve our clients and … see full wiki
A week ago, I joined some friends in my service organization at LMU for some community service in the heart of Los Angeles. Service gives me a great high in life - and I frequently search for ways to give myself better purpose and meaning. I found some of that at the Midnight Mission, over in downtown Los Angeles.
There, we volunteered preparing and serving food to the homeless who live on Skid Row. We woke up at around 5AM and drove over, as I saw the long line of people gathering up to wait for the doors to open. The first thing I noticed about this organization was how organized and swift they were in preparing meals and handling volunteers. Once we parked the car, we were directed to the check-in/security office where we signed waivers and were assigned duties immediately. Each duty was then instructed by a mission worker and given all of the details about their job. As a volunteer, you were either assigned in the kitchen, serving line or dining hall. Everybody works as a unit and no volunteer is left behind wondering what else he/she can do. Many volunteers are needed for everything - from cutting potatoes, serving food, directing line traffic or cleaning up dishes. Like I said, meaningful service.
Of course, with all service opportunities, it is always best when you get right into it and see where your efforts directly impact a community. Midnight Mission certainly allows you to see where you play a role in helping folks fight hunger while living homeless in Los Angeles. Once the line is allowed to enter and begin receiving their meal, you interact with the people who come into the building in a safe and dignified manner. Midnight Mission registers and checks all incoming individuals of the program, and no violent or unsafe situations have occured within the dining hall. While some folks are quiet when eating, others share their story and situation and welcome your company. By 8AM, 600 people have came through Midnight Mission's food program, and the entire place is cleaned up with the optimized delegation of program directors. The folks there always debrief the volunteer team with speakers who thanks you for your time and who also happen to be a former residents of skid row (all workers of the kitchen and volunteer program were folks who were once in those lines for food). If you choose, they also provide a tour of the facility.
With only 3 hours of my time and an early wake up call, I was able to complete a morning of effective community service and still have my entire Saturday to enjoy. I had the choice of leaving at that time, or staying to begin preparing lunch (which I did). Either way you choose, you will never feel like you did not contribute to the time you volunteer at midnight mission. You won't find yourself standing around, hustling others for money or cleaning up after some event. If you prefer your service to be needed, effective and humbling - I highly recommend stopping by the Midnight Mission.