Raised in a religious environment, FSi’s Bill Boone was familiar with the idea of community service. But when asked to take part in FSi’s community service team, he joined reluctantly. While the team set a goal of serving 80,000 people, Bill set a personal goal of serving just 25 – he wasn’t comfortable committing to a larger number. And that was the case until the Community Service team brought in the Union Gospel Mission to do a presentation.
Program manager Richard McAdams, who had formerly lived on the streets, told his story at a company meeting. He brought two other men with him to share their stories as well. The room was stunned into silence by the hardships and struggles they related, and there were few, if any, dry eyes by the time the presentation ended.
Bill was so impacted by this short meeting that he was volunteering at the mission before the month was over. He joined the Search & Rescue team, which drives vans to homeless encampments, providing food, blankets, socks, and hygiene items. But more importantly, they make people feel seen, something that is rare in this “invisible community.”
A quiet guy, Bill said his first rides were silent. He didn’t know what to say to these people, nor how to relate to them. As he continued to go on a Friday night route week in and week out, he came out of his shell and was easily communicating with everyone. His newfound gregariousness spilled out into his life and work, changing the way he interacts in every sphere. He also brought his wife to a presentation at the Mission and she immediately joined her husband as a dedicated volunteer.
Bill vividly remembers one powerful interaction out of the now thousands that he’s had.
“I didn’t realize how important it was to just acknowledge and talk to people living on the streets. I didn’t know how invisible they felt. I was talking to a man about nothing in particular when he started crying. At first, he didn’t know why he was weeping, but finally he said that he had been really missing simple human contact for such a long time that having it again made him realize how much he had needed it.”
Bill believes that the more people know their unhoused neighbors, the more they will do to help them. He has gone from seeing them as an unfathomable number of faceless others, to knowing that they are people he can love. His biggest wish for the FSi Community Service team is to have every single co-worker involved in at least one project.