We’d like to salute our “Wednesday Morning Breakfast Crew” as January’s volunteers of the month! This crew, made up of volunteers Mike Kuhn, Sharon Orawiec, Jim Reardon, Ellen Rosof, Mel Sabella, Carl Segal and Jane Sloss have over 30 years of combined volunteering at Inspiration Corporation! We asked members of the crew to answer a few questions about their volunteer experience, here’s what they had to say:

How did you hear about Inspiration Corporation?
Mel: I live in the area so would often drive by Inspiration Cafe.  After doing some research and learning about Inspiration Corporation’s mission, it sounded like a great place to spend Wednesday mornings.
Sharon: I learned about Inspiration Corporation through my son who wanted to volunteer there. We went together to the orientation and then cooked together on Tuesdays for almost three years.

What is the most enjoyable part of volunteering for you?
Ellen: Starting off my day feeling like I am making a little bit of difference in the lives of people who need it.  I love seeing the familiar faces each week of the diners and the other volunteers.  I look forward to my Wednesday mornings!
Mel: I really enjoy the people at Inspiration Cafe.  Its great to see the participants week after week and get to know a little about them.  I also really enjoy working with the other servers and the kitchen crew.  It’s great to have a familiar group to work with each week, folks who you can joke around with and who you know a little bit about outside of the Cafe.  I also really like doing something that is a bit different than my job.
Sharon: I am my happiest when I am helping others.

What aspect of volunteering are you most excited about? What is the most challenging?
Mel: One of the more challenging aspects of the job occurs when individuals are having rough days.
Jane: For me, one of the most exciting aspects of volunteering has been to see the transformation that happens in the lives of participants and former participants. I’ve been particularly excited to celebrate a former kitchen coordinator’s transition to a position at Smith & Wollensky. Also, I’m amazed and impressed by a Milieu Manager’s work and nationwide travel as a healthcare advocate for homeless people.
Sharon: I love being a short order cook at the Cafe!  Great feeling to say, “Order up!!”

Weds Breakfast Crew

Jane Sloss, Ellen Rosof, Sharon Orawiec, Jim Reardon, Mike Kuhn, Mel Sabella and Carl Segal after a recent volunteer breakfast shift at Inspiration Cafe

What is your volunteer background?
Ellen: I don’t have much of a volunteer background to speak of.  Inspiration Cafe is my first regular volunteer experience, and it’s been so positive that it makes me wonder how I lived so many years without volunteering being a part of my life.
Mel: In the past I’ve volunteered with science outreach programs in Chicago and music events in Central Park in New York.
Jim: Most of my volunteer experience has been with construction. I started building houses with Habitat for Humanity in Waukegan, where I’m from, and then branched out to work building schools in Africa in Angola and again in Haiti, and build each February in New Orleans for the last seven years.
Sharon: I couldn’t wait to turn 16 so I could be a Candy Striper. I have been volunteering in different capacities for almost 50 years mostly with children, the homeless, Meals on Wheels, and bringing communion to the sick and home-bound.

Why do you volunteer? 
Ellen: Volunteering helps bring balance into my life.  I spend most days in the corporate world working with those whose basic needs are more than met.  My time at Inspiration Cafe allows me to give back to the community.
Mel: I think I volunteer because I like to meet and talk to new people, I like to help others, and I like the work as a server.
Jim: I have been very blessed. I have a roof over my head and enough food to eat each day. Giving back those two basics to others feels good to me; right to me.
Sharon: I volunteer because of the following three quotes
“Be the change you want to see in the world”
“Little things mean a lot”
“It’s better to light one candle than curse the darkness”
Though I am only one person, I do what I can to help.

Describe one of the most interesting experiences you’ve had as a volunteer.
Jane: For me one of the most interesting aspects of my volunteer experience has been hearing the Inspiration Corporation mission statement read each week during breakfast. I’ve always been struck by the inclusion of “in an atmosphere of dignity and respect” in the statement and I believe that recognizing the dignity of and treating with respect those with whom I interact are very high priorities in my life.  In addition to informing major life choices, belief in dignity and respect requires intentional choices in everyday interactions. It is a simple and obvious goal, but one which quickly falls by the wayside when I feeling affronted by the person with whom I’m interacting, when I feel fatigued by having yet another person ask me for money on the street, or I’m simply feeling stressed or rushed. Perhaps that’s what I enjoy most about volunteering at Inspiration; it is a time each week that reminds me to treat others with dignity and respect. It’s a reminder that sometimes serving coffee with a smile is glimpsing the best version of myself.
Sharon: My most unique experience volunteering was when Rahm Emmanuel visited the Cafe and asked me to teach him how to make French toast.  🙂

What are your hobbies, besides volunteering?  
Ellen: Running, sailing, reading, travel
Mel: I like eating, watching television, biking, drinking red wine, building furniture, and listening to the Ramones (and other stuff).
Sharon: My hobbies are sewing, scrapbooking, needlework, gardening, taking care of and walking my dog, Wrigley, and attending musicals and sporting events.

What have you learned from your volunteer experience? 
Ellen: I’ve learned that I likely get more out of volunteering than those who I am serving.
Mel: I think I’ve learned that people and their lives are really complex and that it’s really good to get to know peoples’ stories.   Through this I’ve learned that there are a lot of really cool people out there and that we all have a lot to learn from each other.  I’ve also learned how to carry an orange juice, a water with ice, and two coffees in two hands.
Jim: I get struck every time I volunteer by how connected we all are, especially when we stop to listen and hear others’ stories. This is true no matter what our backgrounds are or where we happen to be in our lives at the present moment; there is little that separates any of our hopes for what we want in our lives.
Sharon: Through volunteering I have learned to never judge a book by its cover.