Aaron Lewis (second from the left) with members of MMG serve up good food and smiles at St. John’s Hospice.
As a community outreach leader for the Multicultural Men’s Group (MMG), an Independence Blue Cross associate resource group, I’m always looking for opportunities for our members to make a collective impact in the community. This past spring MMG received an awesome opportunity — fill a monthly dinner service shift during the summer months at St. John’s Hospice, a shelter for homeless men in Center City. This was just the sort of opportunity I was looking for!
Over the last two years, more than 250 IBX volunteers have donated 450 hours in support of 36 volunteer projects at St. John’s Hospice. Knowing that the company had an amazing history of volunteerism and support at St. John’s Hospice made my decision to accept the opportunity a no-brainer.
Just Like Home
When I first arrived at St. John’s, I quickly realized that this was not your ordinary hospice. It is a sanctuary of sorts, full of warmth and vibrant energy. For the lively group of approximately 60 gentlemen who live there, it is home.
As the second eldest of six children, I am quite familiar with the dynamics of living in a full house. St. John’s in many ways reminded me of home. With each visit, I was greeted by the friendly faces of the men (both young and old), the welcoming sounds of laughter, and the smell of delicious home-cooked food. I’m not exaggerating — their chef, Kevin, is awesome! I also observed humorous bantering between the men and brethren caring for one another. They even do chores!
Right Place, Right Time
While serving dinner to the residents, I often thought to myself — this could be my brother, my father, even my friend. I am one of them; only I happen to be standing on the other side of the counter today. Every smile and gesture of gratitude assured me that I was in the right place at the right time.
September arrived, and the summer break came to an end, along with MMG’s monthly dinner assignment. I could not help but feel disappointed at the thought of ending the relationship we had cultivated with the staff and residents of St. John’s, along with the bonds formed with my fellow associates, some whom I had never met until leading this project. Luckily, I would not have to.
Our good deed for the summer led to more opportunities to support St. John’s — the organization reached out to the Blue Crew with many requests for volunteer help. St. John’s requested help with their annual Fall Gala, where they honored Independence with their 2018 Community Impact Award; they also requested MMG’s support with their new monthly lunch and clothing distribution program, beginning on November 27, 2018, which is also Giving Tuesday. Of course, we were thrilled to be asked back and jumped at the chance to continue our service there.
Volunteering at St. John’s Hospice has been an extremely rewarding experience. As I wait for the monthly lunch and clothing program to start, I am both excited and humbled to again be a part of the tremendous community of men there.
I am also looking forward to continuing working alongside the Blue Crew and MMG. I admit, I have often felt like an outsider at times in my life. But all that changed when I joined the Independence family. Through the award-winning Blue Crew and MMG, I formed meaningful friendships and found a community of support and unquestionable benevolence.