Craig Widby has volunteered with Inspiration Corporation for just over a year and he is our Volunteer of the Month.  Craig most frequently volunteers at meals by cooking and serving, and he has also been an enormous asset at events such as One Inspired Evening, Chef Nights, and the annual Participant Picnic.  Read more about why Craig volunteers and what makes Inspiration Corporation special to him.  Congratulations Craig!

1.      How did you hear about Inspiration Corporation?
I was looking to do volunteer work a little closer to home, and looked online for soup kitchens on the north side of Chicago. I was really excited to find Inspiration Corporation just around the corner from me. Your philosophy of serving those in need with dignity and respect really resonated with me.

2.      What is the most enjoyable part of volunteering for you?
Interacting with the clients in the program. I always have a good time during my shifts, but I most enjoy being on the front lines and serving the meals.

3.      What aspect of volunteering are you most excited about? What is the most challenging?
The most exciting part for me is getting to know the clients first-hand and seeing them make great strides in bettering their lives. I have run into several Inspiration Corporation clients outside of the Cafe, and it puts a smile on my face when they recognize me and come up to me to say hello. I had one guy come up to me and say, “Hey, I haven’t seen you in a while. Where you been?” That reassured me my time and efforts were all for a great cause. I told him it had been hard to find open shifts. So, that is the most challenging, finding open shifts. You all have such a great network of remarkable volunteers and it is hard to find open shifts.

4.      What is your volunteer background?
My volunteer efforts began back to college. I used to volunteer for Special Olympics during their regional track & field competitions. Most recently, I served on the Associate Board for Make-A-Wish for four years, and then on the Board of Directors for A Night Out, an organization focused on providing victims of domestic violence and abuse a brief escape from their everyday world.

Craig (left) volunteering at Inspiration Kitchens - Garfield Park Chef Night with Chef Jonathan Goldsmith

Craig (left) volunteering at Inspiration Kitchens – Garfield Park Chef Night with Chef Jonathan Goldsmith

5.      Why do you volunteer?
It really puts things into perspective. For me, it makes me stop and take note of what all I do have, which in turn makes me more grateful. I also enjoy motivating others to help them reach their goals and realize that they are attainable.

6.      Describe one of the most interesting experiences you’ve had as a volunteer.
The most interesting experience for me was my first encounter outside of the Cafe at Target. I was in line, kind of in a haze stressing about what all I had to get done, when an Inspiration Corporation client stopped me to say “hello.” At first, I didn’t recognize him because he had a hat and sunglasses on. He took the glasses off and I immediately made the connection. We had a nice conversation and I promised to find a shift in the near future. That brief encounter immediately took the stress out of my day and put things into perspective for me. It put me back in the moment and made me more grateful.

7.      What are your hobbies, besides volunteering?
I enjoy staying active — going to the beach or out on the lake, playing tennis or beach volleyball, going hiking out at Starved Rock, or hitting the local street festivals throughout the summer. Winter is another story of course. That is when it is time to travel.

8.       What have you learned from your volunteer experience?

Volunteering has taught me to be more present and grateful for the blessings I have in life. It has also taught me to be more compassionate and patient with others. You never know what that other person may be going through, and a simple smile and ‘hello’ may have a big impact on making their day so much better.