Shelter Report: Little kids and old men


The preschool had closed for the day and I was wrapping up my bike cable when Darius rolled over on a little scooter. He was on the sidewalk, peering through the tall iron fence that separates it from the parking lot.

“Which one’s your bike—the blue one?” he asked.

“No, this one,” I said ringing the bell on my commuter, a sweet Salsa Casseroll.

“Can I see it?”

“Go back to where your mom is, and I’ll meet you over there.”

I’d seen her and a cluster of kids and parents on the benches at the front gate. The corner of the parking lot where the bike racks are is hidden from view by a truck belonging to the shelter. (Last week, a light was stolen from my bike parked there while I was working, the first time I’ve had any trouble.)

I showed him how to flick the bell and he dinged it a few times.

His mother said, “Excuse me. Come over here.”

Darius didn’t pay any attention and she kept repeating herself. Finally he made eye contact and she said, “Did you come over here like I asked you?”

He went to her and she said, “You do not just go up to people on the street you don’t know.”

“But I do know him,” Darius said. “His name’s Charlie.”

That was good for a laugh. I introduced myself as one of the volunteers.

Then his mother said to her friends, “The other day I told him to stop talking to some other man, and he said, ‘that’s Greg.’ I’m thinking, how does he all of a sudden know all of these old men?”

Since I began volunteering here, more men, not all of them old, are volunteering in the preschool. Yesterday, I recognized one of the building’s former security guards who’s now finished school and is working security on a community college campus. He’s coming back as a volunteer. And a new “foster grandparent” showed up for the first time.

Four male volunteers in one day. A few years ago, the school might have just one other working in a week.

Day care and preschool staffing is predominantly women, including the students who rotate through on internships. Having a few guys around seems like a good thing, especially since a high proportion of the kids in the shelter don’t have a father consistently around.

But People Serving People needs volunteers this summer, period, and you only have to make a one-month commitment. The greatest need is for people who can work with the kids who live there:

Early Childhood Development Program Assistants
Monday-Friday 8:30-4:30 pm (2-4 hour shifts)

Childcare Volunteers
Monday-Friday 8:45-11 am or 10:45-1pm
Tuesday 5:45-7:45 pm

Afternoon Activities Volunteers
Monday-Friday 1-3 pm
Saturday-Sunday 1-3 pm

The minimum age requirement for these positions is 18 years old, but even old men can do it.

Contact Jenny at