A Decade of Service: Reflections of a Volunteer
Bread for the City wouldn’t exist without our dedicated volunteers. They serve as important partners in Bread for the City’s work by contributing hours of their time at our food pantries, orchard, clothing room, rooftop gardens, events, and centers to ensure we remain able to help 8,000 – 10,000 people each month. We can’t do it without them.
Marie Hoffman is one of these amazing volunteers. She was born in DC after her parents emigrated from Switzerland but spent much of her childhood in Los Angeles. When she graduated from college, Marie decided she had to return to DC.
After working in public health around the world, Marie realized that she wasn’t as familiar with the health system in her own community. “It seemed about time to look closer to home,” she remembers. So while she was between jobs, she decided to volunteer in her field. She researched organizations that offered both a medical clinic and social services, and everything pointed to Bread for the City! That’s how, in early 2007, she began volunteering in our clinic: working with clinic staff to organize health education, exercise, and computer classes, as well as designing health information posters for waiting and exam rooms.
In 2011, when we opened our Health Resource Room, she started helping patients connect with their personal health information through the electronic medical record portal. “The medical staff refers patients to the health resource room for additional information on nutrition, special exercises, or other resources that can help them stay well, deal with a new diagnosis, or even address non-medical stressors like job training, transportation issues, mobile phone, and internet access.” This important project is a vital resource for patient education, and Marie is a steadfast presence there.
Beyond her volunteer hours in our clinic, Marie is also in her fifth year as a member of the Board of Directors, and for the past two years, she has also been attending the Client Advisory Council meetings as a liaison to the board. According to Marie, being a Bread for the City volunteer shaped her into a more receptive and empathic person.
“I have learned to listen better and look for the positive in each person. Sharing a personal story or a friendly greeting with a client can make my day. I feel like I’m being touched by a bit of human grace each time I’m at one of the centers, even just when walking through clusters of clients. They’ve come to feel like neighbors to me”.
She encourages people to become Bread for the City’s volunteers and advise newcomers to learn all that they can because they will become not only better professionals but also greater human beings. “A volunteer should always listen patiently. Look without judging. Watch how Bread staff act and speak, because they have the experience and sensitivity to work with people coming from places we often can’t understand or imagine”.