I was hungry, and you gave me food.
I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink.
I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.
I was naked, and you gave me clothing.
I was in prison, and you visited me.
My first visit to André House was also my first time volunteering at a community service organization. I was in fifth grade, and my volleyball team decided a good “team bonding” activity would be to volunteer somewhere in the community. I knew nothing about community service or André House, so listening to my mom try to explain what a food bank was and why these people had to come everyday was an eye-opening experience.
I remember trying to understand why these families needed André House, and more specifically why they needed my help. I walked up to the front doors with my teammates and our parents, and next to me was a line of at least a hundred families waiting in the cold for their first meal. That is when I understood why I was there.
After much planning and years of dreaming, two Holy Cross priests from Notre Dame made their idea a reality on October 1, 1984. Their goal was to “respond to the basic needs of the poor and homeless people, while encouraging others to do the same.” They rented a space in a run-down part of Phoenix, looked toward their church, The Holy Cross Congregation, and the ideals set by The Catholic Worker Movement, and opened their doors on November 29th of the same year.The founders, John “Fitz” Fitzgerald and Michael J. Baxter encouraged those in the Phoenix area to begin volunteering and building their community.
Although André House began with a primary focus on providing meals to those in need, they quickly expanded. They opened a house in 1987 that offered housing to homeless women, food box distribution in times of emergency, free clothing and education and recreational programs for children. They continued to expand, and after significant fundraising, they opened their hospitality center in June of 1996, and have been helping the community that much more ever since.
Throughout my time working with André House, I have been fortunate enough to volunteer in a number of areas. I began working on the food line, preparing meals and setting up for dinner. I got to interact directly with the families and really see my work pay off. The families are so appreciative and most of the time, they are eager to know more about you and where you come from. In addition, I got to work with some of André House’s employees, who are so appreciative of volunteers’ time and efforts.
On another trip, I got to work in the day care area with all of the kids. During or after dinner, the kids would come to the day care center to color, read books or just “be around the big kids.” It provides a break for the parents and, in a way, for the kids as well.
I’ve also spent time working in the warehouse and thrift shop. I would organize and sort clothes, get the shop ready for the people coming in and at times act as a consultant and friendly face for the shoppers.
All three areas brought me something different. I loved my hands on work with the families, yet working in the warehouse was rewarding as well. I knew my efforts were going to bring a lot of the joy to the families. Whether they fell in love with a dress or saw some new shoes for their son, I could work to bring them a joy they do not often feel.
The André House of Hospitality offers so many services and opportunities to get involved! André House is always in need of more volunteers and donations so do not be afraid to call and arrange a tour of a volunteering opportunity. This organization is close to my heart, because not only do they strive to provide a sense of stability for hundreds of families everyday, but they are where I found my start in community service. Their passion and commitment inspired me to help in my community and offer my time.
I included some more information on André House on my resources page along with some other great charities and organizations that work everyday to put a stop to homelessness.