Volunteer Spotlight: Janet Himstead

wp_ss_20140507_0007Janet Himstead grew up in New Jersey and found herself in Seattle after living in California for 12 years and also spending some time in Jamaica. Janet and her daughter, Geneva, volunteer as advocates on Wednesday nights.

Typically you will find Janet offering to take on any job that will help make the night run smoothly for our guests, often joining meal teams who need help without being asked.

Please join us in celebrating Janet as this month’s Volunteer Spotlight!

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

I started in July of this year. What inspired me was Geneva, and just being able to give back. I have always felt like I have been lucky.  Cheesy I know.

What was your impression of Teen Feed when you started?

I was amazed at how many guests took advantage of the program. I wasn’t really aware of the situation in Seattle, especially with youth. My first night, I was both excited and nervous. I shadowed Nate Whitson (advocate). The tone of the meal was quiet, but reassuring, in that this was a good place to be and a good way for me to help.

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

Biscuits and sausage gravy with pickled jalapeños and a drip coffee. Food is important, another reason why Teen Feed was a good choice for me. I started cooking at ten because there was not enough food in the house. I could open the refrigerator and see all the food in it, because there wasn’t that much. So I learned to cook and share food with people as a gift. Coming to Teen Feed is important to me, because I am able to share that gift of food and having community with people. The one time of day you can have a break from the craziness and enjoy yourself. Some of my favorite Teen Feed moments have been when I have helped out meal teams and have been able to cook for our guests.

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

It’s made me so much more aware that everybody is not what they seem. We all have a backstory, and, while I don’t need to know that backstory, it’s good to know that there is one.

What is your favorite meal you have at Teen Feed?

I don’t usually eat when I am at Teen Feed.

What advice would give to new volunteers?

Be yourself. Don’t hold back, and be able to gauge your audience. I am obviously a mom; it’s written all over me.  And I am a mom to everyone. I was afraid the guests would reject me for that. I think it’s been helpful for guests to see that Geneva is my daughter and that some adults are good. The biggest advice I have is to do this! Volunteer with Teen Feed and take the time to develop relationships that you would otherwise not develop.

Is there anything else about your experience that you would like to share?

I am so grateful that I decided to volunteer with Teen Feed, and will continue to for as long as we can.