December 22, 2018
I can’t believe I am nearing the end of my 52 weeks of service. It really has been an amazing adventure!
For Week 51, I spent time at Dallas LIFE, one of my favorite places to volunteer. We scheduled our lunch-service shift for the Saturday immediately after school was released for the holiday break. I was joined by 20 members of Lakehill Preparatory School‘s Warrior Outreach Organization.
From its humble beginnings in 1954 as the Dallas Rescue Mission, housing 25 men a night, Dallas LIFE has grown into the largest homeless shelter in North Texas. Its current facility on Cadiz Street in downtown Dallas houses up to 700 men, women, and children, and offers a multitude of programs to serve those experiencing homelessness.
Under the direction of Reverend Bob Sweeney since 2005, Dallas LIFE has continued to grow, adding a computer school and GED program, and establishing long-term programs for senior citizens and those with slight mental health issues. The 10-month New LIFE Program graduates approximately 50 residents each year who are recovered from addition, reconnected with family, and have housing and employment.
All Dallas LIFE guests are served three balanced meals per day. According to their website, the shelter serves an average of 1,000 to 1,200 meals daily. The newly remodeled kitchen and dining area are staffed primarily by residents, and most of the food prepared at Dallas LIFE comes through their in-kind product donation program.
The 100,000 square-foot facility offers dormitory style housing for men and women on separate floors. There are also 50 individual family unit rooms, allowing children to remain with their parents. Additional temporary space can be created during extreme weather.
Clothing donations are sorted, inventoried, and placed in the clothing room, where residents can select outfits for themselves and their children.
The in-house computer center helps residents develop computer skills and use email. The New LIFE Program incorporates basic office software training and resume preparation classes. Residents can also complete GED requirements. A state-of-the-art clinic provides free medical, dental, and vision treatment. Free individual and group counseling is available, as well as play therapy for children. A full-time chaplain is on staff to oversee the spiritual program, including daily chapel services, Sunday worship, prayer meetings, and Bible study. Children and teens are welcome at Dallas LIFE, and parents can take advantage of a wealth of resources, including supplies, parenting classes, and childcare referrals.
It is extremely easy to volunteer at Dallas LIFE. You must first fill out a Volunteer Application for an individual or a group (one person may complete the application for all members in the group). Once you pass a background check and are approved, you can log in under the schedule tab to see the daily needs. You can schedule yourself or your group online, according to your availability. A variety of opportunities are available, from serving meals to sorting donations in the clothing closet.
Over the years, I have taken several groups to volunteer for the lunch service at Dallas LIFE, and always find it a wonderful experience. It is a great way to interact directly with the residents.
All volunteers serving in food service must be 10 years of age or older. Those 10-12 years of age can serve cold foods, desserts, and drinks in the dining room. Volunteers 13 years of age or older can join the adults in the kitchen to help serve hot foods and keep the food line stocked. Volunteers will be provided with aprons, gloves, and hair nets. A typical shift is about two hours.
Volunteers are given instructions from the Food Service Staff upon arrival, and are assigned a position. Working on the food service line, serving water, cleaning tables, carrying trays, and washing dishes are all possibilities. On this visit, we also enjoyed preparing some of the food prior to the meal service.
Dallas LIFE follows a conservative dress code, so be sure to dress accordingly. Jeans or slacks should be worn by volunteers serving in the kitchen. Dallas LIFE asks that volunteers avoid running shorts, leggings, or tights as pants. Shirts must have sleeves, an appropriate neckline, and cover the midriff. Closed-toe shoes are required.
Find out more and get involved here.