Real Michiana: 30 years of helping the homeless
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- In this edition of Real Michiana, we're heading behind the front desk at the Center for the Homeless to introduce a volunteer who has been there practically since day one.
“I come in every Tuesday. It’s my day...Some people get messed up if I come in on a Wednesday instead of a Tuesday, because that’s my day," said Vicki Smucker, a front desk volunteer.
“When you see smiles, when you see people that actually care, that actually look like they want to be here, that does a lot, and you can tell the difference," said Jeramee price, who has been staying at the Center for the Homeless since October 2017.
He moved in right after being released from jail. Click below to hear his story.
“Oh miss Vicki!? Nothing but smiles all the time," said Price.
Vicki and her husband moved with their two children to Michiana almost 30 years ago.
“I wanted to get to know the community, find some way to be a part of it, and right at that time, the center for the homeless was being formed," she said.
She signed up at CFH and has been volunteering for almost 30 years.
No one else, volunteer or employee, has been at the center longer than Vicki Smucker.
“I never knew her story. She’s been here so long just volunteering, and that just takes a great person,” said Jeramee.
“[A] front desk volunteer has to just be able to roll with the punches...There’s a lot of activity always...We are the place where the guests come...to get messages, to get the mail,to get keys to their medication...Also, we’re the people who meet the public...but I like that. I find it energizing," said Vicki.
“When I started here...she was one of those people that 'Oh! you need to meet Vicki!'...Not only does she treat anyone that walks in those doors the same way, you know, I work here, but also a donor, a volunteer, other volunteers, and the guests that live here are her main passions, and she just wants to help anyone," said Taya Groover, the Chief Development Officer for the Center for the Homeless.
To hear Taya's ah-ha moment that convinced her to take the job nine years ago, click below.
"I think it grounds me. It broadens my perspective on social issues and what the problems are in our society today, and how it truly affects people." said Vicki.
She says they see those problems unfold right at the center.
“I think how small it is for us to be kind to each other, to say hello,to meet each person as a person worth talking to...I think that is what we do here at the front desk...That can just change a person’s life," said Vicki.
To learn more about how she changed one former guest's life, click below.
To submit a nomination for a Real Michiana feature, you can email Jess at firstname.lastname@example.org.