Volunteer Spotlight: Rhonda Ellis

We are very happy to announce that Advocate Volunteer, Rhonda Ellis, is November’s Volunteer Spotlight.   Rhonda is originally from Kansas City, Missouri.  She has always wanted to live close to the mountains, and, ever since being recruited by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center 16 years ago, she has enjoyed calling Seattle her home. Rhonda has been a nurse since 1981, and brings her skills and amazing bed side manner to her interactions with guest and volunteers alike.

When did you start at Teen Feed? What inspired you to volunteer with us?

It’s been over a year. June of 2013 is when I started. At Fred Hutch, we have an employee bulletin board. Lisa, another advocate, had posted a request for shoe donations and a little information about Teen Feed, and I thought, “That’s cool.” That’s how I learned about Teen Feed.

I had always wanted to find a way to support people around finding options, and this has been great. Through my own experiences, I know this is important work. Whether it’s someone needing a role model or a familiar face of someone who listens to them, I can be there to offer something. It’s awkward for me sometimes, trying to figure out how to connect with different guests. Sometimes I feel like a square trying to fit into a circle, but I am learning.

What was your impression of Teen Feed when you started?

I was really (and I still am) in awe, of the education, training, and support that Teen Feed provides to us as volunteers. That’s been really impressive! The de-escalation training, “The Ropes: Understanding Youth Homelessness” training, the anti-racism and privilege training.  These trainings are such great educational opportunities. I have really appreciated how the program coordinators are able to track the emotional well being of both guests and volunteers during meals, with everything that is going on. I noticed how intentional Teen Feed staff is about the setup of the meal space and making sure guests and volunteers feel safe and welcome.

We love food here at Teen Feed. What did you eat today?

Only this latte!

How does volunteering at Teen Feed affect other parts of your life?

Exposure to diversity has been great for me. The guests have taught me a lot about how to be more open and more comfortable. I had always thought I was pretty open to different things, but I have really learned a lot, and it’s because of Teen Feed’s influence.

What is your favorite meal you have at Teen Feed?

I like the meals that have lots of vegetables, and I notice that the guests like them too! I like to eat healthy. It is nice to have colorful choices with the meals. The Bastyr Meal Team just outdoes itself with all the fresh colorful vegetables they bring in.

What advice would you give to new volunteers?

Take advantage of the trainings, use the debrief sessions, and, if you have questions or concerns, make sure you talk to your program coordinator or Chris (U District Meal Programs Coordinator).