Volunteers donate 3800 hours of service each month

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Volunteer Stories

Through the generosity of hundred of volunteers, Urban Ministries of Durham is able to offer food, shelter, and a future to poor and homeless neighbors in Durham. These are just a few exmaples of groups and individuals who are truly making a difference in the lives of their neighbors by volunteering at UMD. 


Group of the Month - 

New Red Mountain Missionary Baptist Church: A family affair 

For more than 10 years, New Red Mountain Missionary Baptist Church has been cooking and serving dinner for community residents in the Urban Ministries of Durham Community Café. Their leader is Sharon Farrow, who is in her third year as president of the Missionary Circle. A nurse at Duke Medical Center, Sharon says she recognizes a lot of people from the community that she serves dinner to at UMD. Sharon says doing this makes her feel good. “It makes me more appreciative of the small things in life and I realize there are always a lot of people less fortunate than us today.”

Sharon coordinates it all, but she gets lots of help, starting with her family. They assist with picking up and distributing the food that will be prepared. The Missionary Circle members, as well as church members, assist with preparing the food. The food is either prepared at home or at the church. The menu can include fried chicken, turkey and dressing, spaghetti with red sauce, potato salad, butter beans, corn, collard greens, yams, string beans, white potatoes, peas and a multitude of deserts. “Whatever anyone from church makes, we use it all.” This creates a true sense of community love and offers an unusual variety to those coming through the line.

The group arrives at the shelter 45 minutes before dinner time to set up and prepare. They have anywhere from 15 to 25 volunteers. Not only do the adult members assist, but they also have Junior Missionaries who help prepare the desserts, drinks and assist with serving the food.

Getting young people involved is an important part of this faith community’s mission, Sharon explains. “Missionary means reaching out to others in need in our community. Not only do we assist with feeding the homeless, we collect toiletries and donations for Central Children's Home and the Food Pantry. The work involves visiting the sick in their homes, hospitals and nursing facilities. Providing an act of kindness in the time of need can make a big difference in a person's life.”

Who pays for all this yummy food? Sharon explains that each year, they have a certain amount that is requested in their church budget. Some members also give donations to help support the missionary circle. “If it wasn't for the generous support of our church it would be impossible for us to support our outreach ministry.”

New Red Mountain Missionary Baptist Church serves every other month on the third Monday. In Sharon’s words, “We are very excited to be a part in giving back to our community.”

Group of the Month - March - A Powerful Collaboration betwen Judea Reform, Beth El Synagogue, and Kol Haskalah 

Group of the Month - April - Bronto's Volunteer Program 

Group of the Month - May - Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church

Group of the Month - December - Temple Baptist Church

Group of the Month - February - New Red Mountain Missionary Baptist Church

Individuals of the Month - 

Duke University Students: Connecting with their community in unique and valuable ways

Liz Brown, class of 2018 majoring cultural anthropology and global health

A local gal, when Liz was in high school, she worked with the homeless in Raleigh and wanted to get involved with the homeless and impoverished in Durham. Since September 2014, Liz enjoys being at UMD because she gets to use her Spanish and give people food, clothing and diapers. ”It’s busy and active” says the young woman who displays a ton of energy and passion for this work. What are her hobbies and interests? “I volunteer with the Community Empowerment Fund, at the student radio station and am on the student government.” What about fun? “Oh, well I play soccer, run and like music.” This summer, Liz will continue helping those in need by interning at the Wacamaw Council of Governments in SC as their volunteer coordinator for the assisted rides program. And UMD? “It’s been really cool to see a person’s story through their folder. There was a janitor at a high school and when it snowed, he didn’t get paid so he came to UMD for food. It shows how the system works against people who work and still have to come to UMD to make ends meet.” Liz may be an important catalyst in helping to change that system one day and we hope she will be back at UMD helping one life at a time until then.

Angela Chen, class of 2018, majoring in public policy and economics

Originally from Shanghai, Angela and her family now live in Vancouver, Canada. In January, Angela took a writing class and did a paper on the obesity hunger paradox—that sparked her interest in food issues. She immediately reached out to UMD, signed up to volunteer and came weekly to work in the food pantry or clothing closet. “I haven’t felt so connected and inspired as I have here at UMD.” To carry on her passion, this summer Angela will be in Detroit working with a non-profit educating teenagers on how to cook and prepare healthy food. She will be responsible for helping these young people develop their own recipes and then sell the food at local farmers markets and retail stores. Angela also enjoys playing the piano and saxophone and loves skiing.

What has UMD done for her? “I like the working dynamics at UMD. The staff and other volunteers are happy and supportive of people coming to UMD for help.” Angela plans to come back to UMD in the fall once she knows her schedule and that’s great news for everyone. We will be most lucky to have her!

Emily Du, Class of 2015, with a major in Neuroscience

Irvine, CA is home but Emily is heading to Philadelphia this fall and medical school at Temple University with a focus on psychiatry. This summer Emily will be travelling, visiting friends and RELAXING! She enjoys running, reading, and well, volunteering. Last September, Emily attended a UMD volunteer orientation, “because I wanted to meet new people and help my community.” She immediately signed up to help UMD at the Battle of the Bands fundraiser and has been coming weekly to work in the Clothing Closet, and volunteer with Empty Bowls. Coming to UMD regularly has given Emily a sense of connection. “I have never felt so inspired as I have being at UMD,” she said. When asked what she has gotten out of volunteering at UMD, “I just love meeting so many different people in Durham and helping them on their road to food, shelter and a future.” UMD will miss having Emily every week—her bright smile, twinkling eyes, energy and compassion for helping those neighbors in need we serve. She won’t be forgotten and will have as profound an impact as a doctor on those who need help and care as she did at UMD this past year!

Click the "May" link below to learn about Nicole Helmke, Sharrin Manor and Stacy Scholle

Individuals of the Month - May - Duke University Students

Individual of the Month - March - Jan Schwarze

Individuals of the Month - April - George & Betty Poehlman

Individuals of the Month - May/June - Lauren Goslin & Renee Corsi