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Brian Cavanaugh at the beach.

We Miss Our Volunteers!

We’re grateful that so many people have stepped up and found new ways to serve our homeless neighbors since the start of the pandemic and our changed guidelines – but we do miss having the friendly faces of our volunteers on site to brighten our day! We’d like to share some of those friendly faces and the stories behind them with you.

Brian Cavanaugh started volunteering with New Hope Housing at the Bailey’s Shelter & Supportive Housing site last year. Brian says that he wasn’t looking to volunteer — it just kind of found him. Brian couldn’t quite put his finger on what brought him in the door, but it’s clear that his experiences here are what has brought him back. A very social person, he loves to interact with and learn from his fellow human beings. Guests here come from all different walks of life and Brian figured out just how much you can gain from volunteering at Bailey’s. Brian is the kind of person who does whatever is needed. He quickly became an all-star volunteer at Bailey’s – guests and staff know him well and were always happy to see him walk through the door.

Here’s our Q&A with Brian, in his own words:

Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

  • I’m what’s known as a “military brat,” which is another name for a child whose family is in the military. In other words, I’m from various places but I personally like to claim Hawai’i. I lived there for about half of my childhood collectively and my feelings and personality resonate with the place. I’m currently in Fairfax, VA.

What do you do for a living?

  • I currently work at a middle school and at a gym. The middle school works my brain while the gym works my body (if I get time between shifts). That’s how I like to think of it. Soon enough I hope to be a full-time teacher in the sciences.

Where else do you spend your time?

  • If I’m not working or preparing for work, I find myself at home with my two dogs. Usually Netflix is on in the background. I used to do martial arts but as of recently I have my focus elsewhere.

How did you get started and what interested you about volunteering at a shelter?

  • I saw people suffering and I wondered what I could do that would be of the most help. Giving a couple dollars every time, I pass someone on the street is not really feasible for someone of my means. What I do have though, is time, and I figured there must be places where they just needed people to help. So, I went online and googled “Fairfax volunteer” and Bailey’s was one of the first places that came up.

What do you do when youre here?

  • Organization, distribution of in-kind donations, helping in the kitchen with meal prep and cleaning, and interacting with guests.

What advice would you give to someone who might be interested in volunteering at the shelter?

  • Don’t let fear stop you. I was kind of afraid because it was a new thing I’d never done before. Even if you don’t have a goal you can try it at least twice.

Why do you volunteer at Baileys?

  • Long story short, it just helps me interact with the community. It allows me to help other people while helping myself, in a way. I get different perspectives that inform my way of life.

Is volunteering here going to help you at work?

  • Yes. As a teacher I’ll have to understand where my students are coming from and that they have different lives. So, interacting with other people [here] will help me to understand them better.

Why do you keep coming back?

  • To be honest, I wasn’t really feeling it the first couple times I was here but the second time, just before I left, a guest came up to me and said “Hey, when are you coming back? I really appreciate you being here.” And that made me realize that I possibly had a bigger effect than I thought before.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at Bailey’s?

  • Honestly, all the people there are great. From residents to coworkers I have had great conversations with people. I find myself also being able to organize materials for others to use, which makes me happy. Organizing lets time flow by for me and can be relaxing in a way.

Whats been the biggest surprise about volunteering?

  • Nothing has been too surprising from my side but the food that the chefs make always seem fantastic! The way they prepare food for so many people and for it to look that great is amazing to me.

What brings you joy?

  • Having moments of quiet with the occasional hectic, frenzy of life brings me happiness. I’m not saying that I prefer to be too stressed then to become too lethargic, but instead something more passive that breaks the monotonous pattern. It’s almost a “background” feeling. Getting what needs to be done out of the way to pave way for a moment of relaxation is a great feeling. Then, the next duty hits and its back to work. The synchronic pattern of life can be quite alluring!

 

Bailey’s Shelter & Supportive Housing relies on the dedicated support of its fantastic community of volunteers. From groups that prepare meals for guests to the numerous individuals who have made helping at BSSH a central part of their lives, we are hugely appreciative of the great work you do!