Volunteers play an essential role in The Night Ministry's ability to effectively fulfill its mission. Out of caution, the agency suspended volunteer shifts at its Health Outreach and in its Youth Housing Programs when the pandemic began. However, with cases trending downward and vaccination access expanding, The Night Ministry began to bring volunteers back in April.
Before the pandemic, members of Ivanhoe Congregational Church made the journey from Mundelein to Chicago to serve breakfast twice a month at The Crib, The Night Ministry's overnight shelter for young adults. While they continued to drop off meals at the shelter in the meantime, congregation members recently served breakfast at The Crib for the first time in months.
"It was the first time in a year that any of us have been able to go into The Crib, and they were very excited," said Bob Wisbey, who coordinates the meal group from the church. "The majority of us doing it are older people, so it's like seeing our grandkids."
Louise Goodman, who is back to volunteering weekly on the Health Outreach Bus, said it is gratifying to again see the Bus clients she had gotten to know in Pilsen, before the pandemic began.
"There's that wonderful, mutual feeling. They look out for me and I look out for them," she said. "We can chat and share our stories. It is fantastic."
Heather Moore, who had just begun to volunteer with the Bus before shifts were suspended, appreciated the fact that COVID-19 precautions were still in effect as she returned to volunteering.
"I felt incredibly safe. Staff were properly using PPE. If Bus visitors didn't have a mask, we would provide that, and people were very respectful of wearing it," she said.
For Amy Edwards, who will be working from home for the next several months, volunteering on the Bus will provide much needed relief and social contact.
"Part of why I volunteer is for me, for my mental health, to just get out in my community and connect with people, converse with them, and hear what is going on with them," she said.