Our Volunteer of the Month for May is Liza Pono! Liza has been a regular breakfast server at Inspiration Cafe for more than a year, along with volunteering at other events like One Inspired Evening. We asked Liza a few questions about her volunteer experience:

How did you hear about Inspiration Corporation?

My friend, Andrew Sigman, another Inspiration Cafe volunteer, and I had a community garden in Edgewater, and some of the food we grew was donated to local shelters. When winter came, we still wanted to help feed the homeless, and he came across Inspiration Cafe.

What is the most enjoyable part of volunteering for you?

I love spending time with the participants.  I love talking with them, listening to their stories, and hearing about their lives.

What aspect of volunteering are you most excited about? What is the most challenging?

I enjoy catching up with the participants and seeing how they’re doing.

I don’t really find anything challenging.  During a rare occasion we might not have enough resources to help serve but all of the participants are very patient and considerate if we’re understaffed.  In general, it’s a very easy job which is why I feel so guilty when people thank us!

What is your volunteer background?

As previously mentioned, I’m part of a community garden through the Peterson Garden Project and I volunteer regularly with them.  I’ve also done a lot of work with children’s organizations.  I’ve tutored reading and writing to elementary students, worked with Chicago Cares to paint schools, served as a mentor to young women attending the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School and volunteered with the National Lekotek Center.

Inspiration Corporation staff member Mitch along with Liza after a recent breakfast at Inspiration Cafe

Inspiration Corporation staff member Mitch along with Liza after a recent breakfast at Inspiration Cafe

Why do you volunteer?

I’ve always believed that we have a responsibility to take care of one another.  If someone is in need, we shouldn’t turn our backs and hope things will change on its own.  We should instead take action and help however we can.

Plus, I personally feel like I gain so much more from my experiences at Inspiration Cafe.  Everyone has been so kind to me and as mentioned before, the job itself isn’t very difficult. For me, serving breakfast to friends is always a great way to start the day!

Describe one of the most interesting experiences you’ve had as a volunteer.

Hmmm…I can’t say that anything was completely out of the ordinary during my volunteer experiences.  I’ve heard interesting stories from the participants but they probably don’t want me to share that information!

What are your hobbies, besides volunteering?

There’s always something happening around the city, and I love checking it out.  I love going to shows and trying new restaurants.  When the weather is good, I like running by the lake and running races.  This year, I decided to take on biking and do a century ride.

What have you learned from your volunteer experience?

I am extremely grateful that Inspiration Corporation exists.  Nowadays, I feel like there’s a greater need for organizations like them but less financial support is being provided.  That’s why it’s even more important for us to volunteer.

Thank you Liza, for your continued dedication to Inspiration Corporation, we couldn’t do this work without volunteers like you!