Volunteer Staff Spotlight!

This is Tom Bauder's testimony given at the 2017 Next Step Breakfast.

"Good morning!  My name is Tom Bauder. I am a parishioner at St. Columba’s in Tenley town and I have been a volunteer at the NW office for five years and a member of the board for three. And I honestly say that my work at Samaritan Ministry is the most rewarding and fulfilling I have done since retirement .I’ve made friends with people I would not normally associate with. And learned about a segment of the city I had previously ignored.

I feel that my work at Samaritan Ministry is important.  At Samaritan Ministry I believe that I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.  I have been given the chance to live out my faith.  And that’s a great feeling.  In addition, I’m a different, and I believe, better, person since I’ve been involved.

I live about 5 blocks down Wisconsin Avenue from St. Columba’s.  Many Sundays as I walk up Wisconsin Avenue, I pass as many as five homeless people, mostly men, on the street asking for help.  Occasionally I would give someone a dollar, and even more rarely, I would buy someone food.  The rest of the time, I walked on by, feeling guilty, but somewhat repulsed by “those people,” thinking, if not actually saying, “Get a job.”

Then at church, I would hear “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And “Feed my lambs.”
And “Go and do likewise.”

In fact, Jim Wallis of Sojourners informs us that he has found more than 2000 references to our duty towards the poor in the Bible, all saying pretty much the same thing.

I would sit in my comfortable pew and ask myself.  “How can I call myself a Christian and do none of these things?  How much hypocrisy can stand in my life?”  I would feel powerless and guilty of hypocrisy in the first degree.

It was at a Next Step Breakfast that I decided to give Samaritan Ministry a closer look to see if this could help me reduce my feelings of guilt and do something productive in my retirement years.

At Samaritan Ministry I learned just how hard it is to “get a job.”  The competition for low-paying, part-time, unskilled or semi-skilled jobs in DC is intense.  People compete with hundreds of others for the same minimum-wage job and need to apply for many before one eventually opens.  I also learned that I could be of service: helping people take those next steps needed to improve their lives. And I now do these things. And it feels good.

I know some of what they need to know. I can help create a resume, write a letter of introduction, set up an e-mail account, use jobsites to help find employment, prepare for an interview.  I know how to dress for an interview.  I know what to say. I know how to behave at work.  I know the importance of punctuality, honesty, veracity and humor. And I can teach these skills to others. Not knowing these things can often be obstacles our participants struggle with. They’ve seen failure and may no longer believe that the can succeed. I have some learned that I can help build confidence in those who may have lost theirs.  And it is a true joy when someone comes back to report obtaining employment or accomplishing some other significant goal.

I still walk to church, and those homeless faces still haunt me as I pass them. I don’t fear them as I once did, and I now know that these are people just like me who have had a little bad luck or have been abandoned by family and former friends. More often now,  I give a person a dollar, but I also give each a card—a Samaritan Ministry card, and I say, “Are you tired of living on the street?  Here. Come see us.  We can help you.”

On the computer table at Samaritan Ministry I have one of those red Staples buttons. When you push if, if says in a loud voice, “That was easy.”  When one of my participants completes a computer task, I ask him or her to hit that button.  Everyone claps and congratulates that person.   We all smile and laugh at the irony of completing something difficult and then saying how easy it was.

But I don’t think we’re the only ones smiling.  I feel the whole place smiling.  And I silently say,” Thank you, Lord, for giving me the chance to do what you want me to.”
I can feel God smiling with us.

So, if you, like me are looking for a life-changing opportunity to redeem yourself and to support our brothers and sisters who need our help, come see us:  We can help you!"

If you would like to get involved, please contact us at volunteers [at] samaritanministry.org.