When we open our doors each morning, we never know how many people to expect. Sometimes there’s only a few, usually there’s a couple dozen. Our policy is to allow everyone in when the door opens, no matter how many there are. If there are less than 35 people, we continue to keep the door open until we reach our capacity of 35 or until it’s 11:00 – whichever comes first.
We have always called the people we serve our “guests”, a practice we learned from Sister Isaac. She wanted the people to feel welcomed into a friendly environment on a personal level. We never call them clients; they aren’t assigned a number in a computer. We maintain a paper file for each person so we can keep a history of their needs. We keep basic info on them so we can determine which food program they are entitled to and the size of their family. When I meet with them, I make notes on their particular situation. I might write things like “studying for her GED”, “going for a job interview at Wendy’s”, “recovering from hip surgery”, “celebrating 3 months of sobriety”, etc. The next time I see them; I can follow up and see how things are going for them. Although we can’t solve their personal problems, we can at least show we care.
My volunteers and I all wear our nametags so the guests are welcome to call us by our first name. Over time, many of the faces of the guests become familiar to us and we can call them by name as well. When a guest walks in and we greet them by name, they truly seem to be pleased to be recognized. It actually works both ways. Many of us have encountered some of our guests around town. They typically recognize us first and happily greet us. I’ve run into guests at their place of work several times. Just last week I was making a purchase at a local gas station, and the clerk recognized me. She hadn’t been at the Center in quite some time, but she knew me by name, and also inquired about Sr. Isaac; she asked me to pass on a message to Sister, and to let her know what a huge impact we had been on her family.
There is one small issue, though – my name. Although I wear my name tag, I’m frequently called “Sister”, “Sister Mary Ann”, “Sister Isaac”, and the one that made me chuckle the most – “St Mary”. I usually respond with “No, it’s just plain old Mary Ann”. The other day I ran over to Burger King to pick up a quick lunch. The server recognized me and was happy to wait on me; when she gave me my receipt I glanced down to see my order number and saw she had just entered my name: “Sister”. Oh well.
Special Need: We are winding down as we will be closed for the rest of summer after this Thursday. Please hold any donations of material goods until we reopen in September.