Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy 25th Anniversary, Christ House (a little late)

Volunteers with a resident, Christmas 2008
On Christmas Eve 2010, Christ House celebrated their 25th anniversary. Since 1985, the Washington, D.C. facility has provided medical assistance to more than 4,000 homeless men and women. They celebrated this milestone in their history with a December gala, bringing together volunteers and supporters who have participated in their growth and service. Read more about how Christ House was able to connect with their volunteer alumni and honor their service during the celebration.

Lizzie Bebber, Director of Volunteers at Christ House, took on the challenge of trying to contact all former Christ House volunteers in order to include them in the anniversary celebration as well as update them on the current ways that Christ House is serving the Washington community. “Tracking down 25 years of former year-long volunteers proved to be quite the challenge!” Lizzie recalls. 

They started collecting their contact information in January 2010, almost a year before the event. They had current information for some alumni, and emailed them asking for help in updating the mailing list with other volunteers. With the help of these former volunteers as well as online searches, active email addresses, and Facebook accounts, they were able to locate additional volunteers.

Jim Lindsay, Catholic Volunteer Network Executive Director, was the first Administrative Director of Christ House and supervised the first eleven years of the volunteer program. He and other former staff members shared old pictures of former Christ House volunteers with Lizzie. Lizzie says, “We literally went through each picture and tried to figure out who each person was, what year and in what position they served. With the help of some good memory and a lot of time and thought, we were able to distinguish quite a few folks!” 

After nine months of work, Lizzie and her staff were able to relocate over 130 former volunteers. The alumni received an invitation to the anniversary celebration, and were asked to participate in the preparations by sharing a favorite memory of their time as a volunteer as well as a favorite recipe.

Candle light silent night to close the event
The Christ House alumni are scattered around the country, with some currently living abroad. About 20 of the 130 former volunteers who were contacted were able to attend the celebration. The pictures were used in a slideshow during the event, rolling continuously in the background. The memories and recipes are currently being compiled into a booklet which will be published in the upcoming months.

The memories that the volunteers shared were an encouraging reminder to Lizzie about the impact that both the work and the community lifestyle has on those who serve. “Christ House year-long volunteers have always (and continue to) meet each Wednesday night for a meal and time of reflection together,” Lizzie explains. “Many former volunteers said that their favorite memories were spent around the table at Emmanuel House, the year-long volunteer residence, at those weekly dinners. For some during their volunteer year, the discipline of meeting weekly can be quite a challenge. However, the stories shared communicated the importance of those times together.”

Here’s to many more years of Christ House volunteers serving those in need!