For almost 11 years, Waltham CHAI Works (CW) participants have been volunteering at Women's Lunch Place (WLP), a day shelter for women experiencing homelessness and poverty. The staff at WLP know CW participants and staff by name and are always friendly, accommodating, and highly appreciative of the hard work the group does. They are familiar with each participant's skills and strengths, assign tasks accordingly to ensure a meaningful and productive experience, and help foster relationships between CHAI Works participants and other volunteer groups. The CHAI Works group looks forward to their visit each Friday.
Kathryn Friel, the director of Waltham's CHAI Works program, talked with a CHAI Works participant about his experience at his favorite site:
Kathryn: Where is Women's Lunch Place?
Participant: It's on Newbury St. in Boston and we take the green line to get there.
K: When does CW go?
P: Every Friday.
K: Who are the guests there?
P: They are not rich persons, they are homeless women, mostly. We go to help them.
K: What type of services does WLP offer?
P: Lunch, counseling and advice.
K: What do the CW volunteers do?
P: We do lots of different tasks – we serve meals to the guests, wash dishes, clear plates, and serve dessert and fruit.
K: What are you most proud of?
P: Oh my goodness this is a tough question – so much to say here! I am really proud to serve them great food. It's food you could serve to your family at your house too; it's really good quality.
K: Is there a job at WLP that was difficult at first but got easier over time?
P: Plate counting, at first. I need to count stacks of 100 clean plates to make sure there are enough for all the guests. At first, that was a lot and they are big plates. It's easier now because I took my time counting and since I practiced, now it's not hard at all.
K: Did volunteering at WLP help you learn skills that you use at your current paid job?
P: Yes! I learned independence. Like with the dishes, they helped me make sure I was doing the job right and then I didn't need help any more. Now at my job I do lots of things independently.
K: How is the food?
K: What type of food is served?
P: All different kinds, you never know what they're going to cook because the menu always changes.
K: Are there any other groups of volunteers at WLP?
P: Yes, Boston Cares. They're nice, we talk sometimes.
K: What would you tell someone who was thinking of volunteering at WLP?
P: It's nice to work here for the ladies because they need good food.