Volunteering Series: The Heart of Compassion
Featuring, LAHIA: Love And Hope In Action
Previously Published in the Pineapple Post
By Helena Kyle
When you pull up to a red light and see a homeless person standing nearby holding up a sign asking for help, meaning money, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Does the sign tug at your heartstrings? Do you find yourself giving your loose change, or a couple of dollar bills? Or, do you wonder why someone who appears young and healthy isn’t working to earn income? Remember the adage to not judge a book by its cover? It applies to the homeless as well. We may not understand why there are homeless people, young and old, living in the woods, sleeping on public benches, or living on the streets, in our land of abundance and opportunity, but we do understand the need of love and hope, which is what the homeless at LAHIA voiced as their greatest need. There are a myriad of reasons factoring into homelessness; drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, or other debilitating afflictions. Not everyone has a stable, loving family to turn to for help, but the homeless in Martin County do have a place they can turn to, it is called, LAHIA, an acronym for Love And Hope In Action.
LAHIA is the only place in Martin County that offers the homeless a place to take a shower 5 days a week, and do a load of laundry, once a week. They can have a haircut for free, too. Brunch and dinner are served in the dining room, 6 days a week, Monday through Saturday. Last year alone, 29,701 nutritious meals were served. An emergency food pantry is open to the homeless on a daily basis. Also, they are given a bicycle, and they can receive mail, replacement documentation such as birth certificates, a driver’s license, social security cards and an ID card as well as transportation to doctor appointments, court, rehab, or bus station if reuniting with family.
The services offered to those in need are free to the homeless, but funded by private donations, churches, and grants – there is no federal funding. The property and facilities were purchased, outright, by an anonymous donor with a heart of compassion. And, if the donor happens to read this article, “thank you for your generosity!”
The day I dropped by to interview the Executive Director, and former 8 year volunteer at LAHIA, Brenda Dickerson, the place was a buzz with activity; people were waiting for their turn to shower, volunteers were sorting through donated clothing. The clothes washer and dryer was churning and whirring, non-stop. All clients sign in at the reception desk prior to using the services, but that day, the volunteer receptionist was unable to make it. The need for volunteers was clear, to say the least. Brenda was multi-tasking like a pro – if multi-tasking were an Olympic event, she gets the gold medal. I felt as though I needed a nap after the interview and tour of the facilities.
LAHIA would appreciate volunteer service in the following areas: Cleaning the “hygiene cottage”, where the showers, washers and dryers are located, as well as kitchen cleanup and meal prep. Additional volunteer receptionists and hygiene cottage monitors would be helpful, too. Volunteers choose their own hours and days to help out; the facility is closed, Sunday. There is no formal volunteer orientation required.
Next time you pull up at a red light and see a homeless person with a sign standing next to your car, rather than giving money, or ignoring the person, think about offering an alternative that might change their life for the better. Money may not be helpful, in fact, it might enable the person with a drug or alcohol addiction. Instead, offer a bottle of water and a meal, or a gift card to a fast-food restaurant. If I am able to, I direct the homeless to LAHIA; I keep a stack of LAHIA business cards in my vehicle to hand out to those in need. Remember, we can keep the spirit of the holidays in our heart year-round, by offering good will toward others.
LAHIA does not discriminate against anyone in need of assistance on the basis of race, creed, religion or gender.
For more information:
Brenda Dickerson, Executive Director: 772-781-7002
PO Box 1385
Port Salerno, FL 34992