Recently, Volunteer Program Manager Westbrook Evans sat down with Jim, a volunteer in Central City Concern’s (CCC) Living Room program, which functions as a shared, safe place for Old Town Recovery Center patients, many of whom are actively living with and managing behavioral and mental health challenges. Read on to find out what drew Jim to volunteering with us, how volunteering aligns with his personal journey and more.
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Tell me a little bit about your role here at CCC?
I volunteer one day a week at the Living Room at the Old Town Recovery Center. I help facilitate breakfast and group activities with members of the Central City Concern community.
What are some parts of your volunteer role that you particularly enjoy?
Hanging out with the community. The day I volunteer we do meditation. I meditate in my personal time, but it is nice to do it with a group of people. It is pretty powerful to have 20 people in a room taking a few minutes to reflect.
Has there been anything that has been challenging or difficult?
Getting up at 7 to make it to the Living Room! [laughs] It can be hard to get out of bed but I’m always glad I did. Every morning we start off with a “Hope Scale.” When I come in, I’m a six out of 10. When I leave I am at an eight or nine.
What drew you to wanting to volunteer with CCC specifically?
For a lot of my life I held a lot of fear and anger about injustice and problems in our society. I spent time in the Bay Area and Portland and I just found it overwhelming that as a wealthy, developed nation we can’t provide simple services for people who need help. Having experienced houselessness, drug addiction and alcoholism I felt a connection to the work CCC is doing. Part of my recovery and healing is sharing what I have and to be of service. I had volunteered with Alcoholics Anonymous but never volunteered with an organization like CCC.
"Every morning we start off with a “Hope Scale.” When I come in, I’m a six out of 10. When I leave I am at an eight or nine."
Can you share a little about how your recovery has led you to volunteer?
Something I have gotten better about through working with my sponsor is learning more about my mission. My mission isn’t to fix the world or every problem, but if I can help one person see a little bit of light in their recovery, my purpose for that day has been met. If we all did that a little, it builds.
There is a phrase you hear from old-timers in long-term sobriety: “You can’t keep it if you don’t give it away.” The only way for me to step out of my own self is to be of service to another person. When I am doing service in the Living Room or just asking someone how their day was, I’m not stuck in self-centeredness. I can finally be honest with myself.
When I first interviewed you to become a volunteer you had an interesting story about how you heard about us…
At the time I was already seeking some way to volunteer. A friend and I were having coffee when a Central City Concern truck pulled up to clean up a pile of trash. My friend started asking questions and we learned a lot of the guys were in recovery and working for CCC, keeping the streets clean. I found CCC’s website later that day and signed up to volunteer.
How has volunteering with CCC affected your life?
I see people all over town who are affected by CCC. I even see people who graduated from the Living Room, but they still go. I sit there and realize I was a few turns away from being at CCC’s door with a backpack. A few less supportive people in my life — easily. It is crazy to think about.
Some of the fear and resentment [about injustice] I had before starting my volunteer time with CCC was softened by realizing how much groups like CCC are doing in the community. It was a moment that showed me there is a collective community effort that has been going on for a long time. It is exciting to be a part of that work and start learning the intricacies of the work. It’s really impressive.