This month our Volunteer Spotlight belongs to Christopher Gates. Christopher heard about HandsOn Broward in 2007, while registering for the United Way Day of Caring. Although a resident of Miami, his work with the Broward County School District led him to wanting to volunteer with local organizations that served his students’ populations. He served in the City of Hollywood’s Liberia Community, one of the poorest, most underserved neighborhoods in Hollywood at the time.
Christopher has volunteered at several projects, beginning with, Feeding the Residents at Broward Outreach Center (BOC). “My experiences at the Broward Outreach Center, was another opportunity to view the vast services that the Miami Rescue Mission has to offer to the Broward community. Since 2009, I’ve volunteered at Christmas In July (CIJ) in Miami, as well had the opportunity to be a Team Leader for CIJ at the Broward Outreach Center. Beyond CIJ, I’ve teamed up with Broward Schools and Lynette Michie, BOC Volunteer Coordinator, in my Ambassadors of Hope Annual Clothing Drive. With Florida having the third largest homeless population in the nation, Ambassadors educate the community on the types of homelessness and mobilize to collect new and gently used clothing benefitting the BOC. Years later, I continue to volunteer in support of the Miami Rescue Mission through Leftover Cuisine, where we are partnered with local restaurants to end hunger and food waste by delivering cuisine to the MRM through the Feed The Waste Or Feed The Hungry Campaign.”
Christopher has a passion for volunteering and encourages others to get involved in the community as well. “Volunteering impacts others in several ways. The opportunities at the Broward Outreach Center are vast and varied. Your volunteerism is not stifled by only serving in the kitchen, but expanded upon by collecting and sorting “Hope Totes,” “Pack the Pantry” opportunities, and so much more. Ms. Michie is BOC’s passionate Volunteer Coordinator, who loves serving her community and the residents of the BOC. I encourage you to explore ways you can volunteer, and share those experiences with family or school groups.”
Christopher’s motivation to get involved in the community started when he was a child. “My motivation for being involved in the community came in that one moment, as a child, when I saw a need, and was given the opportunity to serve. When I was a younger, more often than not, kids weren’t given the opportunity to serve. Our thoughts, views and expressions of wanting to be a part of something for the common good were not entertained, seen as insignificant, and/or pushed off to the side as if we were “in the way.” My motivation was imbedded from my foundations in Faith, Faith that believes in humankind and a determination that at my own behest, I would serve. After all, I believed that a kid could make a difference, if only taken seriously, and given the opportunity. From that first moment, when I was given an opportunity to feed the homeless, and hand out care baskets full of toiletries and hygiene products under the overpasses of Downtown Miami, that moment was a demonstrative opportunity to give with purpose. That moment was that one moment that became a springboard to a lifetime of service, a lifetime of giving.”
Christopher enjoys volunteering for many different reasons. “From that first moment, to every moment thereafter, I volunteer because it has become a part of me – expanded through generations in a voluntary compulsion to serve. I enjoy volunteering because it brings life to seemingly lifeless situations. It unearths the human spirit, and breaks through rhetoric, moving forward in tangible ways –HandsOn! Too often we talk about change, while more often we need to “be the change.” I enjoy volunteering because the one thing about the human spirit is that when we mobilize, the collective impact brings together shared passions and visions of effective and proactive givers. Volunteering for me brings the joys of like-hearted individuals who serve above self. I enjoy volunteering because in our doing, it impacts so many, with results that do not underestimate the giver or the receiver, with results that do not marginalize, but mobilize. Volunteering for me is that opportunity to do something even after the cameras leave and the story fades, to be able to make an impact, giving to others through opportunities and experiences that even we may not be able to afford ourselves. Wherever I serve, however I serve, I do so for the good of humanity.”
Christopher has some great advice and inspirational words for new volunteers: “The advice I would give to new volunteers is to begin your volunteer journey relentlessly optimistic. We all share the same 24 hours in a day, but ask yourself how much of that time can you allot or set aside for someone else? Your choice to serve, to give, can help someone in the most difficult times. On your journey, find ways that you can be an effective giver. Effective giving does not mean that you should run to every cause, but means that you should believe in your cause. On your journey, you will find your niche, those specific causes that capture you in the moment, and captures your heart for a lifetime, those causes where you can share your gifts and talents, including those causes that may be new or different, but may help you find that hidden or untapped potential inside of you! To that end, my final and most important advice to new volunteers and veterans alike – is to become an unstoppable giver, and honor the lives of those you may never have the honor to meet.”