We have awesome volunteers here at the Mission and we want to celebrate all of them! We love them and appreciate how they help our guests and staff with so much passion. Many people have partnered with us in our outreaches at Boston Common, cooked delicious lunches and dinners for our community meal program, donated clothing, and more. A BIG shoutout to all our superstar volunteers, you are the best!
For those who are unfamiliar with our volunteers, we have a very special guest today: Nancy. Nancy is someone who volunteered at the Mission since high school! In fact, she found an essay that she wrote about her first-time serving at the Mission recently that we wanted to share with you. Read on to find out more about her amazing journey volunteering from her teenage years to the present.
1. Can you tell our readers about yourself, your background, your journey on how you ended up as a volunteer at the Mission?
My name is Nancy Hinckley and I started early I guess with the wanting to volunteer and help the homeless, I don’t know if it’s because I grew up the daughter of a pastor, so I was kinda born into like the whole helping people. But, it started in high school and ironically enough I had told Mauricia, the volunteer coordinator, that, “I’m pretty sure I went to the Mission in high school, I’m almost positive”, and I was digging through some old things and I found an essay that I wrote and I was like, “oh my word, I did”. It was called the Kingston House back then, which everyone know is interchangeable, so I went there for the first time in high school. I remember I wanted my high school youth group to know what it was like to be homeless so I actually, I made them all go outside without their coats on. Some of them, it was a big deal, some of them smoked cigarettes back then so they were afraid that we were going to go through their coats and take whatever- so I made them go out on a cold night and then, so we arranged to go to the Mission and did the church service and served a meal.
And then, I still loved that and I ended up going to Gordon College and again found my way back to the Mission for a trip as part of our student ministry group. Lynn Simon was the dean of chapel there at the time and she was affiliated with the Mission at that point and she brought us there. So again, I served there, same thing we did like a church service and meal. That was probably back in ’94, I’m old. I graduated from Gordon with a degree in psychology. I didn’t end up going to grad school, I wound up working. But I always kinda thought about volunteering. And, I had actually had a full-time job with Nextel communication which became Sprint, which is now T Mobile, and I’m still there all these years later. But I also had worked part time in radio, which I loved, and I did that for about 5 years and then I decided to leave radio and I wanted to do something with my time that was of better use. And I just looked up the Mission because I remembered being there, and that was back in 2004 of October, and I started there and I’ve been volunteering ever since.
I did actually work there for about 3 years, I ran the kitchen on the weekends, the kitchen supervisor, so I did that for 3 years as well on the weekends.
It’s been weird not being able to volunteer the past year due to COVID and everything. I’m looking forward to getting back out there, it’s left a big hole in my life. It’s funny because you think you’re helping them, but they actually help you too. It kinda keeps you grounded and keep things in perspective, you know.
2. What inspired you to write this essay about your first time volunteering at the Mission when you were in high school?
You know what’s sad, I don’t know. I feel like my memory is so bad. I’m wondering it was typed up on a typewriter back in the day, so I imagine maybe I did a paper on it for school. That’s all I can think of because I don’t know why I would sit down at a typewriter and type something up. I would journal and stuff, but I must have had to write an essay for school or write an essay about my experience. It was very formal, it was funny.
3. I really appreciated reading in your essay about how you were feeling nervous and full of anticipation during your first time hosting a church service and serving meals. I think it’s something many people kinda feel like they would relate to you about because they might want to get involved at the Mission or another organization, but they’re unsure about it. Do you have any words you would like to say to someone who wants to volunteer? I know you’ve been here for many years so you’re fully confident, ready to go, but for those who haven’t taken the first plunge yet, any words about volunteering?
Homeless people are not what you think, you used to see these videos of dirty people with backpacks, it can be anyone, it can affect any of us. We always say we’re all one paycheck, one drink, or one drug away from being homeless. They’re people just like us, it’s someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, daughter. They’ve had some bad things happen to them, some people, some mental illness, a lot of addiction. But, if you remember they’re just people and the majority of them are so grateful and nice and they just want to be seen. They’re worthy. A lot of people don’t see the value or their family and loved ones haven’t seen their value. Just remembering that, they’re just one of us.
Do we have episodes once in a great while? But they’re so few and far in between. And those of us who are regulars so to speak that are out there a lot, they do respect us. I mean I can’t tell you, I’ve jumped in a middle of a fight and they’ll listen to us. I haven’t gotten punched yet. As I said, it’s very few and far in between. They’re people, they’re worthy of compassion, I would say they’re kind of broken or people that were forgotten. They just want to be seen and valued. Sometimes, a kind word is worth more than a sandwich that we’re handing out.
4. What is your favorite part of volunteering at the Mission? I know you said it helps keep you grounded. Is there a particular experience or conversations you have with people that keeps you grounded or makes your day?
I think it’s really been the relationships. You know, it’s funny because my dad is a pastor and I’m like, “I don’t know how you’re a pastor” because if you say the wrong thing from the pulpit sometimes, like he likened Jesus’s birth to being in an outhouse you know because he was born in a manger, people will get very fussy about certain things. I’m like, “I don’t know how you relate to them” and he’s like, “Well, I don’t know how you relate to the homeless” and not in a bad way, but I think it’s just that I have this ability to kinda talk to people where they’re at and I don’t, you know, no judgement. I don’t know, I think it’s the connections I’ve been able to form, and those relationships that hopefully you know, I mean they’ve changed me, they made me grateful for all that I have. I always think of like one guy was having a really bad night and there’s a gentleman who used to come in for the meal every Sunday and he would always come in at the end; and he came in late one night and I had a massive plate put aside for him because I knew he would be coming in and he was so grateful! And as I’m leaving, I’m like man, you know I was feeling really down and whatever, and as I’m leaving, I look and see him on the curb eating his plate and I’m like oh my gosh! I mean he was so grateful and here I am feeling sorry for myself about I don’t even remember what I was bummed out about. But I’m like have a home to go home to, got a couple of dogs waiting for me, I have a good family, and this poor man is just grateful that I saved him a plate and he can sit and eat.
Yeah, I think it’s really been the relationships that were formed and hopefully, like I said, make a difference or at least help someone feel valued and loved and cared about.
5. What makes you hopeful while you’re working, volunteering, or in life generally?
It is people like Eddie. I don’t know Eddie personally, but being involved there, you see people a lot of times come back through because they are struggling again. But man, when you see those people come that are recovered, they’re living a good life, they have a job, they have a home, there is hope, it can be done. For all the people who come in and are frustrated or feel like they [can’t], you can do it, and there are resources, and I love seeing those people come back and share their stories and provide hope to others because I personally have never, thank God, have been homeless or had to experience that. But, there is hope and you see it in so many success stories and that’s what really makes me happy, news that it can be done and they can have a good life. It goes back to they need to know that they’re valued and they’re worth something and that there is someone out there who will invest in them. But, there is hope.
6. Do you have any last words or advice you would like to share with our readers?
I guess it’s don’t underestimate the value of kindness. People you know, we’ve all been through a lot, we’ve all had a lot of things happen and I think none of us know what the other is going through. Like I said, one drink, one drug, one paycheck, people are out there that have lost their job because they’re injured. It’s not the same that it used to be, there’s just so much that goes on. Just compassion and kindness can go a long way, and just saying a kind word to someone can sometimes make a huge difference cause you really don’t know what anyone is going through. And to just judge people for being homeless, you don’t know where they’re at or what they’ve been through. So that’s really my thing is don’t assume that they’re all drug addicts, they don’t want to be out there doing drugs, they don’t want to be living that life. Don’t underestimate the value of kindness and understanding. Give people a shot.
Here is the very essay that Nancy wrote about the Mission in high school. It’s great to see how she has given and learned so much from here time here. If you would like to volunteer, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to have you partner with us. Thanks for tuning into Hope Scope today. We hope you are inspired and uplifted to help people.