Christ House reﬂects on welcoming 252 Year Long Volunteers in the past 35 years.
Woven into the fabric of the Christ House mission of healing and hope are individuals committed to a year of full-time volunteer service among men experiencing homelessness with acute medical needs. The annual welcoming of these individuals, aﬀectionately referred to as Year Long Volunteers or YLVs, has been a part of Christ House’s core vision from its very inception.
Commencing in 1986, individuals from across the country have come to live and serve among the patients, Kairos program members, and staﬀ. Throughout Christ House’s 35 years, the gifts and compassion of these temporary community members has created an atmosphere where new ideas and energy emerge, are welcomed, and implemented, inspiring the progression of the Christ House mission. The presence of YLVs among the community not only shapes the mission and positively impacts the lives of patients, it greatly informs the discernment process of the volunteers and inspires permanent staﬀ members to view the organization with the hopefulness and excitement of these new members.
For many YLVs, Christ House is a pivotal stepping stone that informs their future path. YLVs often ﬁnish their year of service and enter into academic programs to become doctors, nurses, or study public health. Anne Feczko, a YLV from 2007-2008 shared, “My entire professional career has been a direct result of my time at Christ House and I have continued to work or volunteer with folks experiencing homelessness ever since. Living at Emmanuel House and being immersed in the communities laid the foundation for how I nurture community and practice hospitality.” YLVs also go on to become chaplains, social workers, and case managers, having been inspired by the faith community and having witnessed the barriers to services many patients face.
And yet, there is another set of YLVs who learn that Christ House is not just a stepping stone, but rather a longer path in itself. Frequently, YLVs have become full-time permanent staﬀ members hired onto the team at the end of their year of service.
To date, Christ House has welcomed 252 YLVs with an average of six each year. In our past 35 years, we have had the honor of regularly having YLVs stay for an additional year or be hired as staﬀ. Currently six permanent staﬀ members were once YLVs.
YLVs live together in a rowhome around the corner from Christ House and are called to co-create an intentional community; an integral part of the YLV program. This intentional community oﬀers the gift of space and openness to process the service experience. Through life-giving conversations and relationships, YLVs are reminded of the sacredness of their interactions with each other and with the patients at Christ House.
Christ House’s most recent group of YLVs completed their service year at the beginning of June 2020. As part of their farewell, the group wrote and performed a song entitled after the Christ House address, “1717 Columbia Road.” The chorus to which goes,
Time passes by, oh, and people pass through, never quite knowing the magic they do. Seventeen seventeen Columbia Road, just watches and smiles as its story unfolds.
Click here to listen to the song.
The end of June brought Christ House’s newest group of YLVs. These six incredible individuals are settling into their new roles as members of the community with grace and ﬂexibility amid the unknowns of the pandemic. Now more than ever, the willingness of YLVs to say, “yes” to a life-changing experience is a source of joy for the patients, Kairos members, and staﬀ.
As Christ House reﬂects on 35 years of comprehensive and compassionate health care, 1717 Columbia Road continues to provide a dignifying space for patients to heal, for hope to be instilled, and for journeys to be shaped. Each person who passes through our doors, as a patient, staﬀ member, or Year Long Volunteer, is forever woven into the Christ House story that continues to unfold.
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