The MacServe Series: Welcome Inn (an Interview)
Over at Pop the Bubble this summer, we’ve focused a lot on what there is to see, do, and explore in Hamilton. We’ve shown you some of the nicest spots to grab a scoop of ice cream from, where all of the most #instaworthy waterfalls are, and showcased some of Hamilton’s newest and most innovative restaurants. However, another dimension of our job here at the Student Success Centre focuses on community engagement and service-learning based initiatives. Since MacServe Day of Learning – a day in which students have the opportunity to go out into the city and participate in service placements with local community partners and reflect on/discuss community issues – is happening on September 24th this year, we decided to spotlight a few of the organizations in Hamilton that we’ve had an opportunity to partner with previously and interview some of the staff members and volunteers of these spaces!
This time around, we’re turning our attention over to Welcome Inn. I first had the opportunity to become exposed to Welcome Inn during the MacServe Engage trip earlier this summer. A vibrant presence in Hamilton’s North End, Welcome Inn works hard to help combat poverty and social exclusion with a variety of programming and opportunities for community members to become involved. Welcoming and friendly, individuals that become involved with the Inn come from extremely diverse backgrounds, but are bound together by the common desire to end poverty and create a beautiful and resilient community. They are once again returning to partner with us for this year’s Day of Learning initiative and we are extremely excited for this partnership. Additionally, they are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, so we wanted to wish our fondest congratulations to them!
I was lucky enough to be able to interview Suzanne Foreman, who is the director of the New Horizons thrift store, one of the many initiatives started by Welcome Inn, as well as two amazing students/volunteers that I had the pleasure of meeting during Engage, Miranda Floreano and Witha Lumbangaol about their experiences with Welcome Inn. Scroll down to see what they have to say about this place!
Q&A With Suzanne
Q: What does your organization do and why is it an important part of the community?
Suzanne Foreman: New Horizons is the main Social Enterprise Program of Welcome Inn Community Centre. We are a Thrift Store that provides alternative shopping experience that is accessible and affordable; provides an opportunity for meaningful volunteer work in an environment where job skills can be learned and demonstrated; a friendly environment where people of all backgrounds gather to shop, developing both skills and meaningful relationships. We are also committed to reducing landfill waster by accepting donations for sale and recycling.
Q: Why did you get involved with Welcome Inn? How did you get your start?
SF: I am the Thrift Store Manager and was hired in Jan 2016, but my awareness and peripheral involvement with Welcome Inn goes back many years to my work with other social justice organizations. The idea of community reciprocity versus charity makes perfect sense to me, and I have always very much enjoyed working with volunteers eager to contribute their time and talents to the community they call home. This Fall, The Welcome Inn will celebrate 50 years of service, and the event weekend is called “Homecoming” which is the perfect title for as many reasons as there are neighbours near and far.
Q: What advice do you have for students looking to get involved with their community?
SF: For students looking to get involved in their community; just DO it. Get out of your comfort zone and do something totally new to stretch your awareness as well as your skills. A community is organic and vibrant and ever-changing, and always fun and interesting to be a part of. You will people people and do things you never knew you could do. It also looks great on a resume if you have been a volunteer, speaking volumes about you as a person.
Q&A with Miranda and Witha
Q: How did you hear about Welcome Inn and how did you get involved with them?
Miranda Floreano: I heard about Welcome Inn at the Community Volunteer Action (CVA) volunteer fair. After talking with previous volunteers and hearing what an amazing program it was I wanted to be a part of it.
Witha Lumbangaol: I heard about Welcome Inn through open circle and Community Volunteer Action (CVA) at a clubs fair.
Q: Has volunteering with Welcome Inn changed your perspective in any way (personal, community, etc…)
MF: Volunteering at Welcome Inn has helped me to realize that one person really can make a difference. Seeing how much the kids grow and learn within a span of a few months is very rewarding and being able to do it as part of a group is even better.
WL: Volunteering with Welcome Inn has changed my perspective about the importance of community. It made me realized community is how people support one another and take care of each other.
Q: What skills have you developed as a result of volunteering with Welcome Inn?
MF: After volunteering at Welcome Inn I have learned the importance of reflection. Being able to reflect upon experiences with other Mac students has encouraged me to think about diverse situations and how to best address them.
WL: As a result of volunteering with Welcome Inn, I have learned the value and power of mentorship. Mentoring middle school aged children in academics and financial skills taught me how important it is to have the back of the younger generations.
Q: What was your most memorable experience volunteering with Welcome Inn?
MF: Volunteering at Welcome Inn has taught me how valuable volunteering really is. It not only benefits the community but also ourselves. Being able to forget about the stresses of school and spend time with the kids always made my day better. Seeing them laughing and having fun while learning is something that I will not forget.
WL: The most memorable experience volunteering with Welcome Inn was seeing kids who were discouraged and had difficulty completing their homework, finally being able to solve a question or problem on their own. Seeing their smiles afterwards was the most rewarding.