By Vanessa Hulse
Don Watkins has been volunteering at the Warming House for over three years. He began volunteering in the kitchen with the dishes and progressed to helping make the meals. After retiring, this gave him something to do with his free time.
“It gave me a place to be, it gave me a sense of purpose,” Watkins said.
Then, about a year ago, he became a member of the board of directors for the Warming House. As a member of the board, his responsibilities include going to meetings to discuss how board members “can make the Warming House more responsive to the needs of the community.”
He mentioned the Warming House rewrote the mission statement this year to make it more succinct. They wanted to “make it something that is easily repeated,” Watkins said.
Part of this process is looking at “how the people are going to be affected…all of the people that come [to the Warming House] whether they’re a student, a volunteer or they’re a person who comes to get fed.”
Through his experiences volunteering at the Warming House, he has learned more of what it means to live in poverty. A previous director of the Franciscan Center for Social Concern helped Watkins learn more about the nutrition aspect of the guests at the Warming House.
“It’s easy to pass judgement on them. They smoke, the drink a lot of coffee, they have cellphones, but they don’t have any money for food, or they don’t eat well,” Watkins said. “But [the director] said a lot of that was because nicotine is an appetite suppressant as is caffeine.”
Along with this, Watkins mentioned people see those in poverty as not deserving the services the Warming House or the food pantry offer. In his experience though, he tends to believe the opposite.
“There’s a sense of shame and they have their own sense of pride that prohibits them from coming to a place like [this].”
As a response, he urges people help remove that sense of shame associated with asking for help. This shame can be removed through a better understanding of what those living in poverty have to deal with on a day to day basis.