We recently had the chance to speak with Lauren, a dedicated core team volunteer with Back on My Feet’s Columbia Heights team. She shared her journey, experiences, and the reasons why volunteering with Back on My Feet is so rewarding.
Building Strong Community Connections
Lauren’s journey with Back on My Feet began in 2014, and she has been an integral part of the organization ever since. As a core team volunteer, her responsibilities include ensuring that the team’s runs happen three times a week, coordinating the “Circle Up” runs, welcoming new members, and handling various aspects of planning and organizing events.
Lauren explains, “I think the thing that I love most about Back on My Feet is the truly personal connection and relationship you’re able to build with members and volunteers over an extended period of time. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work in my life that relates to homelessness and mental health, but the thing I love most about Back on My Feet is that even though we work with people who are very much experiencing homelessness or recovering from homelessness, I have more than any other volunteer experience been able to experience the power of the community and the structure we build around members.”
This personal connection is a unique and powerful aspect of volunteering with Back on My Feet. It allows volunteers to transcend the surface issues that people experiencing homelessness may face and build meaningful relationships with individuals on their journey to recovery.
A Positive Impact on Volunteers
Lauren highlights the positive impact that volunteering with Back on My Feet has had on her life. She notes, “A lot of my closest friends are other volunteers. It’s really my community. I wouldn’t have done it this long if it hadn’t had a positive impact on my life.” Volunteering has provided her with a deeper understanding of the social issues related to homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health. She’s had the opportunity to see these issues through personal relationships, moving beyond just intellectual knowledge.
Lauren emphasizes the importance of community and support in the recovery process, saying, “Being part of that third ingredient makes me feel like I’m doing something in the world. It makes you feel like you’re part of the solution in a very small way, and that’s not nothing.”
When asked about what people may not realize about homelessness and substance abuse, Lauren stresses the individuality of each person’s experience. She explains, “Everything is so individual. What any person brings to the circle is their own individual experience. Because of that, what it will take for that person to get to a different place is not the same as what it will be for another person.” This insight highlights the complexity of these issues and the need for tailored solutions.
Additionally, Lauren has gained a deep understanding of the challenges of recovery. She expresses empathy for those struggling with addiction and acknowledges that recovery is often a lifelong journey. Back on My Feet provides essential support and community to help individuals continue on their path to recovery.
Advice for Potential Volunteers
For those considering volunteering with Back on My Feet Cirlce Ups, Lauren acknowledges the initial challenges of waking up early for the runs but emphasizes that the experience is worth it. She also highlights that Back on My Feet is more than just a running club—it’s a means to build community and support. It’s about connecting with individuals and building relationships that go beyond physical activity.
Favorite Member Moment
Lauren fondly recalls celebrating a long-term alum reaching his 500-mile milestone. “Seeing him reach that, we had set it up so he hit his milestone exactly at the end of the run. We had finish line tape. Being able to see him finish that and celebrate together. 500 miles is far! And it definitely was not a straight path. But he stuck with it and he stuck with us.”
Lauren’s story and experiences illustrate the powerful impact that Back on My Feet has on individuals experiencing homelessness, as well as the volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to support this transformative mission. By volunteering with Back on My Feet, you can make a tangible difference in the lives of those who need it most, and, as Lauren’s story shows, it’s a journey filled with personal growth, community, and lasting connections.