When I began to build this volunteering life, I put working with adult literacy at the top of my list. Boston Cares responded to my inquiry about ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) conversation and classroom groups with an invitation to an all-day training program for new ESOL Corps volunteers. Through the Corps, volunteers make a longer-term commitment to a particular agency, two one- or two-hour sessions a month for three months, and if you wish to serve more frequently, you can sign up to do that. The deeper commitment appeals to me.
With the training still several weeks away, and with more time to give, I found myself reconsidering the one area of volunteering I promised myself I would never get involved in again. For all of the years I was an active food blogger, I resisted filling my non-work hours with food-related activities. Food, and the food world, overwhelmed me, and I felt myself becoming one-dimensional in ways that didn't really reflect my life or interests. (In fact, I started this blog in 2014 as a response to that, because so many people only knew me as a food person.) But I'd enjoyed my volunteering days in the food community, meeting chefs and nutritionists and restauranteurs, helping to fight hunger in tangible ways, and I met some friends in that community who have remained part of my life to this day. Once I stopped food blogging, I started to feel a bit nostalgic about the work I used to do.
I followed up on a friend's referral to the director of nutrition at Victory Programs at the Boston Living Center, which serves individuals and families who are homeless and may have substance abuse disorders, often accompanied by chronic health issues such as HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, or mental illness. Victory Programs has an active -- and, for many clients, life-saving -- nutrition program that includes counseling and a drop-in meal service. After exchanging many emails with the volunteer coordinator, she invited me in for an interview, and to fill out an application and a CORI form (Criminal Offender Record Information) for a background check. We talked about what I might be interested in doing. They didn't have any openings in literacy programs, and I didn't want to prepare and serve meals to their clients, which was their immediate need, so it would be up to her to find a fit for me within the organization, if possible. I filled out the forms, thanked her, followed up by email, and waited.