This year, globalHMA is interrupting our individual birthday celebrations to spend time volunteering during our birthday month. We encourage each person to select a cause that matters to them, give back and share their volunteer experience.

When you think of birthdays, what comes to mind first? Maybe you think of spending time with friends and family, going out to a nice restaurant or receiving a birthday cake. While many of us are fortunate enough to have these luxuries on our birthdays, and access to them at any time, the homeless in our community are worried about where their next meal will come from, or whether they will be warm enough as the colder weather approaches.

In Lancaster County, Water Street Mission helps the homeless and working poor by providing food, shelter, recovery programs and clothing. A non-profit organization, WSM helps around 400 men, women and children daily. While there are many ways to give to the organization– including monetary, clothing and food donations – I chose to give my time.

On my birthday, I was honored to have the opportunity to volunteer in the dining hall at WSM. Staff of WSM greeted me with welcoming smiles. As we prepared the meal and prepped for the guests to arrive, everyone was enthusiastic. While I was there, I helped prepare desserts on individual plates, bussed tables and collected trays as guests finished eating their meals, and cleaned afterward. As the kind faces of guests handed me their trays and thanked me, I really wanted to say “thank you” back to them.

Serving at Water Street Mission reminded me that the luxuries I take for granted are far from reach for many people in our community. In fact, even most basic necessities are not promised to everyone. To have the ability to give time and know that it was so appreciated by both the staff and guests of Water Street Mission was the best birthday gift I could have received.