“Ever since Rita was 3 years old she has always wanted to help people.” Be Bonner tells me as we sit with Rita, her daughter. Be raised Rita and her two other children to be altruistic and giving towards their community. As kids, the family would take the train into Center City to distribute hot meals and coats to those in need. As Be reminisced over these interactions, she said what was important to her in those moments was “looking someone in the eyes, and connecting with them”.
For years Be had volunteered at a women and children’s shelter where she became well known amongst their guests. One particular child, a little boy, followed her around that shelter so much that he earned the nickname Shadow. Shadow had occupied a very special place in Be’s heart, but eventually he and his Mom got into stable housing. Ten to fifteen years later, Be was grocery shopping in her local market and heard a woman and grown man shout her name. After all that time, Be had run into her Shadow; and what he said to her was “Thanks for looking at me”. And that is why Be keeps coming back to BSM; because she can go beyond just the tasks of a volunteer; she can look at people and engage. This time, Rita was the one who introduced her mom to a place where she could have that connection and be giving back to her community.
Rita’s generosity and will to act has led her through law school and a career as an attorney. Commuting from the suburbs last winter alerted her to the folks living in the city who truly need resources and community. As the days got colder, she noticed more and more people moving into the train and subway corridors underground. After her first volunteer shift here at BSM, Rita remembers calling her mom telling her she would definitely be coming back. She loves that here at BSM we treat our guests with dignity. After volunteering at soup kitchens, she too missed the opportunities for connecting with people. Because here at BSM we value our guests being welcomed through our doors exactly as they are, there is a freedom to be yourself which reminds Rita that there isn’t so much of an “us” versus “them dichotomy. She comes back week after week because she has built relationships in this community. After a crazy Wednesday night of serving 408 guests, Rita called upon Be to join her in volunteering weekly.
We are so lucky to have such a generous and spirited family as part of our volunteer team!
Written by: Christine Moriarty