Volunteer Spotlight: Carole Brand

Reunion 217[1] final

It’s simple. It’s relationships.

It is our extreme privilege to announce that Advocate Volunteer, Carole Brand, is this month’s Volunteer Spotlight! From Canada and New York to the beautiful Great Britain, Carole has called some amazing locales home, so we count ourselves very lucky that she has settled down here in Washington and now joins us as a volunteer at Teen Feed. As a registered nurse, Carole is devoted to making a difference for our guests at program every Sunday night.  It’s truly inspiring.

When did you start at Teen Feed? What was your first impression? 

My first orientation was in early November 2013. A couple of years ago I was recently retired and looking for something to do as a volunteer.  My friend Jenny Rose had mentioned Teen Feed.  We emailed back and forth for a while, but it sort of went out of my mind, and I just went on my merry way. A year or so went by, and I ran into Jenny again, two days after I had received some good news. She invited me to the “More than a Meal” Luncheon, and I thought, “This must be what I am supposed to be doing”. I went to the next orientation and the rest is history.

At first I was a little overwhelmed. I am a registered nurse, so I am used to taking care of people, but I had not dealt with anything quite like this. I had to rethink things I had previously thought about homelessness. Little by little I started realizing that these are people that are in a really different place than I am, and, with just a little help, they might be able to make a change. It was an overwhelming and stunning experience, because we are not used to seeing the whole picture.

Do you remember your first night? 

I do. I got there, and one of the coordinators who I had met briefly the night of my orientation, let me in. He welcomed me and gave me an outline of what Teen Feed does. He paired me with Volunteer Advocate, Brad, and I shadowed him all night. Brad was very good at involving me. I certainly didn’t feel like a bump on the log. I had anticipated being able to communicate faster and easier. In reality, these guests were in a very different place, and some of them weren’t ready to talk. It was hard. I went home with the thought that I was going to have to learn a lot, but I’m committed. I committed, and I have only missed one day since I started. I was going to do this.

What did you eat today?

Today? This morning I had half of a marionberry muffin, blueberries, and water. Just before I came here, I made myself a little cheese sandwich, and I had some green beans that I roasted, and some yogurt. I like to eat, and the best context I have with guests at Teen Feed is with those who like to eat.

How has volunteering at Teen Feed changed or affected other parts of your life?

I live in a bit of a cocooned world at the moment. I live in Edmonds, and you I don’t really see homelessness in Edmonds. I think I look at homeless youth with more compassion than I used to. It’s hard for me to think that other people don’t think the way I do, or aren’t able to do things that I have been able to do. I think it’s the realization that our guests don’t have a lot of control, and that for most of them, it’s not their choice that they’re here. I think that is the biggest change for me.

What advice would you give to new volunteers? 

Not to get discouraged in the early weeks that you volunteer. There can be a feeling that you’re not getting it. As much as you can ask questions of who your Program Coordinator is, or other advocates, it is still your responsibility to try to jump in and talk to somebody. That’s the hardest thing, is if you sit at a table, and a person doesn’t want to talk to you, not to feel intimidated by that. They are the guest, and we need to remember to adjust to what they need, not what we need. It’s not all about us, it’s all about them. If they don’t want to talk to you, don’t take it personally. Give it a good shot before you decide not to do it. You are not always going to click with every guest, and they won’t always click with you, and you have to be OK with that.

What is your favorite meal you have had at Teen Feed?

Last night!  We had salmon that had been baked with this amazing crust on it that had been made from crushed Ritz crackers, and a bowl of fresh cut bell peppers, tomatoes, and fruit salad. It was tasty and pretty, and had a lot of vibrant colors.

Is there anything else you haven’t shared, that you would like to, about your experience? 

I try to interact with everybody, especially the other volunteers. I think it is important for us to be close as a team, and the Sunday night team is great, and we work very well together because of this.