One of my favorite aspects of UFA is the charity work. I grew up in the dominate faith in Utah and when I left the church I didn’t really know where or how I could help. However, I quickly met many UFA members that are active with different charities and soon realized all of the opportunities that are available.
UFA has selected an annual charity the last few years. In 2012 we supported soldiers with the Wounded Warrior Project. We held a big fundraiser in November with the 007 theme and raised about $3810. We also support Charity: Water and have raised almost $1900 with this organization through multiple campaigns and house concerts. This year UFA is supporting Ronald McDonald House through multiple efforts such as monthly dinners and a Chili Cook-Off.
One of the Facebook groups that feeds into the UFA network is the charity organization, Peace Love & Cookies. Most of the charity work I do is with this group. One of my favorite opportunities is serving dinner at The Road Home overflow. Mainly because this facility is within 15 minutes of my home and I can bring my son with me. =) It’s all about keeping it simple.
One of my goals with my personal charity work is that I involve my 9 year old. I have made an effort in making sure that he knows how to serve those in need. What I have found to be the most surprising is that he LOVES it. Every Tuesday night we are either at the climbing gym or the shelter. He complains almost every time I take him climbing but he is excited every time we are headed to serve dinner. (This is also the same child that complains when I try and take him sledding or tubing down a river…)
We have a children’s version of UFA called UFA jr and this group of parents has pushed to find opportunities to serve with our kids. I’m lucky because my son looks like he’s 12 and acts like a little adult. I’m able to bring him to places that are usually restricted to 12 and older. Click here to view some kid-friendly opportunities in Utah.
I’ve had many great experiences serving over the past few years. I joined the crew from Peace, Love & Cookies to help serve dinner at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake last week and it was very interesting. The building only holds about 60 men. 10-12 of those men live in the building full-time for about a year as they try and recover from some type of drug addiction. After checking-in you sit in a chapel area along with all of the “guests.” You spend the first 20 minutes attending a church sermon that mainly includes 60 men singing hymns off key. My son and I tried our best to sing along but we weren’t much better.
After 20 minutes the preacher sent our group of volunteers down to the basement to prepare dinner that was provided by donations from local restaurants and the Utah Food Bank. For those that are looking to help but can’t afford to do more than donate their time this was the perfect opportunity. As we were preparing the food I spoke to a few of the men that live in the facility full-time and they were so enthusiastic and helpful. They told me that this opportunity to live there for a year without paying rent allowed them to work on staying sober without outside influences. No one is allowed inside the building unless they are 100% sober. If anyone leaves after 7PM they are not allowed back in. I served many that I could tell were mentally ill as well. It gave me a different perspective and a reminder that many do not choose to live this way.
Another significant moment happened over Valentines Day when my son and I were helping with a Valentine’s Day activity at The Road Home overflow for families. There was one little 5 year old boy that kept following me around. At one point he asked for help making a card for his mom. When I asked him where his mom was he said that he hadn’t seen her in a long time. It broke my heart. It also made me think about these kids and how in NO WAY do they choose this life. The same night a young 12 year old girl told me she was making a Valentine for her teacher. Coming from a family full of teachers it made me tear up knowing that this girls teacher was probably the most important influence in her young life.
I don’t want to scare anyone away from serving because I have always felt safe and have never been harassed by anyone. However, I do want to mention that many of these opportunities are in rough neighborhoods. It is really important to be aware of your surroundings and stay safe. Being a single mom I make sure to serve in a group. Many times my boyfriend joins me as well. Don’t be afraid to ask someone from the facility to walk you to your car. I’m sure this is a given, but don’t dress fancy. If you are coming from work make sure to bring a change of clothes and dress casual.
I get more out of it than anyone I serve and I love spending time with my son in this way. I’m also very grateful for the efforts of Susi and Karen who make our UFA charity work run smoothly. I’m also thankful for Peace Love & Cookies and the large group of friends that serve consistently. (Jaclyn, Steve G, Susi, Karen, Mary, Peter, and MANY others)
If you would like more info on serving dinner at Ronald McDonald House please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
Do Something Random,
UFA Co-Founder and Social Director