The Indispensable Volunteer
The community space in our 1515 Fairmount Avenue headquarters filled with the hum of conversation - punctuated by moments of laughter - as Project HOME community members gathered to celebrate an important landmark.
Just as Volunteer and In Kind Gifts Coordinator Anabel Genevitz laid out the party treats - which included neon pink cupcakes - Bill Shriver entered the room to a round of applause. The appreciative crowd (including Bill’s mom) was there to recognize two significant milestones - Bill's 50th birthday and his 10th anniversary as a Project HOME volunteer.
Over the last 10 years, Bill has become a fixture of the Project HOME community, someone who is a volunteer and so much more. Bill has volunteered at nearly all of our sites and has become a part of the organization's institutional memory and story.
"I've seen a lot of people come and go. You miss them, but you move on," he said. But it is that emotional connection that tethers him to Project HOME, a connection he feels is reciprocal.
"[Project HOME] appreciates what I'm doing. That's a key here - you do get recognition. They're appreciative toward me and they are sincere when they tell me that. So that's one of the main things that keeps me here," he said. Bill first discovered Project HOME in 2003 while paging through a United Way listing of nonprofits offering volunteer opportunities. Since then, he has worn many hats, with his responsibilities ranging from tutor to cake baker to voter registrant.
But his favorite volunteer tasks are the ones that bring him closest to the people he is serving. Currently, he would rank his work at the Hope of Hub near the top of his list.
"I try to make people feel welcome, get them a coffee or a hot chocolate," he said of his position as greeter and support staff. "There's a lot of intelligence down there [in the subway concourse]; it's a shame so many people are in that predicament."
While Bill is naturally a friendly person - his entrance into a room is almost always punctuated by a boisterous "Hey how ya doin'?" to the first person he sees - his empathy comes from a deeper place. Bill struggled with his own mental health issues years ago, and that experience has informed his interactions with Project HOME residents. It has also instilled him with a passion to help end chronic homelessness, however he can.
"If I can make a difference in one life today, make one resident smile, it's all worthwhile," he said. "I'm led by my heart and conscience. Doesn't matter if you are paid or not. Just somebody has to care."
But while his kindness and empathy have kept him connected to the mission and his passion for volunteerism, something else has led him to make Project HOME his second home. "I enjoy the camaraderie. I'm comfortable being here because I'm accepted and I do my thing," he said. "The smiles of the people [are important]. Even the employees; some of them have very uplifting smiles. You don't find that everywhere."