There have been many moments at Project Just Because that could be considered “life-changing”. Considering the organization has been operating for around two decades and I’ve only volunteered for 2 of these years, this means there have been so many more that I have never witnessed. And it’s interesting because these moments of realization don’t change your entire outlook on life, but they make you realize how important what you are doing is.
I very distinctly remember my “life-changing” moment. I began volunteering in September 2015 and this moment occurred in January 2016. In between the beginning of my life at Project Just Because I was volunteering because I wanted to volunteer and PJB was the closest option I had. By January I had built better relationships with the other regular volunteers once they realized I was actually coming in on a regular schedule. I had been promoted from sorting clothes to distributing them, and let me tell you, I’ve never been happier. Now this is going to sound kind of weird, but I remember vividly what this woman looked like. I had just walked out of the backroom after completing the children’s portion of the order and I looked up and saw this woman just standing there wearing a tank top and leggings in the middle of winter. And since PJB is really sensitive about keeping client’s identities private I don’t want to say what she looks like beyond that. The other volunteers and office manager are kind of frantically rushing around and talking to this woman trying to figure out what they can do. Routine is that a request form is sent in and then a week or so later you come in and pick up your order, but this woman had never submitted an online form and she just came in hoping we could get warm for her children.
She kept repeating that she only needed stuff for her children and she didn’t need anything if her children weren’t going to get something because she did. I was instructed to go get some winter coats and clothes and eventually we got her clothes for herself and her children. I came back into the main room and I caught onto tidbits of the conversation as she explained her really troubling situation that I won’t go into detail about (again for privacy issues). And it wasn’t until later when I got home and I could not stop thinking about it that I realized how important my work is at PJB. So many of the orders that I fill everyday are changing someone’s life somehow and it’s an easy thing to forget. There are occasionally times when I don’t want to sort through 6 bins hoping to find 32×34 pants for Adult Male #2 that I’ve never met. But then I think of how important it is for these people to have size 32×34 pants because they can’t just go out and buy them. These kinds of moments when people come in with their heartbreaking stories are the ones that remind me to keep pushing. And for those 4 hours a week I’m able to be a part of something bigger than myself.
It may sound silly, but the best parts of my days are the ones where I get to go to Project Just Because. It’s such a loving, calming, healthy environment. The other volunteers who are all retired act as my mentors and treat me as one of their own. I owe so much of my growth to this small, local charity. Sometimes I forget how integral volunteering is to my existence. It makes me so much happier and excited about my future of changing lives. I believe that for the rest of my life I’ll try to find some place as wonderful as Project Just Because.
Project Just Because is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that serves as both the Hopkinton Food Bank and a donation driven clothing redistribution service for all of Massachusetts. There are also seasonal programs such as Back-to-School and Christmas. If you or a friend are in need of services from Project Just Because or would like to donate please visit their website.