Waldron recognizes Heather Mohler for her volunteer work with youth at Teen Feed.
Heather wanted to find an opportunity to volunteer with youth even though her work absorbed such a significant portion of available time. During her pursuit, Heather tapped her memories working with children aged 8-16 as a camp counselor.
“I loved the interaction I had with kids at that age and realized it was missing from my current day-to-day life; I have some very special memories of helping my campers with first-time experiences or helping them through tough social situations that troubled them. I wanted to find an organization where I could have a similar opportunity to serve as a positive role model or provide guidance and support to youth.”
From online searching, Heather found Teen Feed—a non-profit with a mission to feed, shelter, and provide homeless youth with the support they need to live and grow. “Although Teen Feed is a very different environment than a summer camp, I am really getting to know the Teen Feed guests and offer my support in whatever way they may need.”
Heather contributes time as an advocate volunteer with Teen Feed weekly during dinner, setting up dinners and being there as a friendly ear and familiar face. Many of the teens simply want to chat with somebody who will listen, somebody who also has knowledge of resources Teen Feed can provide, such as the Service Links for Youth (SLY) program that helps teens transfer into life off the streets.
“Many Teen Feed guests do not have other family members or adults they can count on.” Heather says. “Simply asking them how their day is going, or whether or not they got the job they applied to last week can go a long way in showing them there are people who care about them and their well-being. When I put that into perspective, an hour to an hour and a half of my time isn’t that much.” An advocate volunteer offers care and support, even in little ways.
The variety of youth that come to Teen Feed continue to startle Heather despite her frequent visits. Some look like every-day university students on the way to class, while others bear more obvious marks of homelessness. Homelessness no longer fits any stereotype, if it ever did, and has complex causes. But Heather’s the first to tell you that, “no one deserves neglect, and everyone deserves a hot meal and a chance to talk and grow.”
Heather affirms how much effect mutual trust among all Teen Feed youth and staff makes the organization invaluable in every respect. Many of the youth are repeat visitors as they feel safe at the dinners and know it’s a place to relax and be themselves. The organization provides 50-80 youth aged 15-24 with hot dinners every day, all year in the University District and Auburn areas. With rapport of trust and compassion, the dinners provide both food and friendship.