Bangor Area Homeless Shelter Names Former Guest Volunteer of the Year
December 21st is the longest night of the year and National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day.
Staff at homeless shelters want people to know how important volunteers are, especially this time of year.
"The people we serve are our neighbors. They are part of our community and so are the volunteers. Really when you volunteer here, it's neighbors helping neighbors," says Boyd Kronholm, Executive Director of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter.
The volunteer base at the shelter is critical.
Jay McGarr knows this well.
"The people who come to the shelter are basically normal people that are going through bad times," says McGarr.
Not too long ago, he found himself on hard times financially, without a home, and staying overnight in the lobby of the Bangor Police Department.
"I believe it was on their recommendation this was the place to go," says McGarr.
He stayed at the shelter for several months until last January when he was able to find a home of his own again.
"I really don't know at this point what would have happened to me or where I'd be today and I kind of wonder about that," says McGarr.
While he was a guest at the shelter, Jay put his retail experience to use, organizing food stock and helping with operations in the kitchen.
"After he was housed, he asked if he could continue with that and he was doing such a good job we let him continue in there and he is vital to our mission," says Kronholm.
Out of the 3,000 volunteer hours logged in 2017, Jay contributed 300 hours. That's one of the reasons he was named Volunteer of the Year.
"That was really nice," says McGarr.
Jay says being retired gives him the time, and knowing firsthand the service the shelter provides motivates him to give back.
"It was one of those experiences I wouldn't have wanted to probably go through again but it gives me more to be thankful for and it's a challenge. It's a challenge but it's not an impossible challenge to conquer," says McGarr.
Volunteering is something he suggests everyone should do.
"It's feeling the accomplishment of helping others. Kind of gives you a warm feeling inside and that's a good thing. Especially around Christmas," says McGarr.
The Bangor Area Homeless Shelter is holding a homeless vigil Friday night at 6pm at the Hammond Street Congregational Church.
They're partnering with the hope house and the church to remember people who've died while homeless this past year.