After 25 Years, I Have Finally Met My Neighbors: My service in a code purple shelter
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is a hot tourist spot for more than half of every year. Families look forward to their summer weeks off so they can travel down Coastal Highway, shop in the tax-free Tanger outlets, walk the boardwalk, eat Thrasher’s French fries or some saltwater taffy from Dolly’s, and enjoy the sun. It’s the city that everyone wants to retire to in order to enjoy life after a long career up North. Building a dream house five minutes from the beach and adorning it with lighthouse shaped lamps and nautical artwork is common for retiree’s in Rehoboth. I personally have spent hundreds of hours with the Rehoboth Beach community either walking alongside them on the boardwalk in my spare time or shaking just the right amount of citrus into a regular customer’s drink during happy hour through my work in the restaurant industry.
I had signed up for an intake shift at the local code purple shelter before I even knew where it was located. I passed all the giddy shoppers and bikers on the side of Route One on my drive when I finally spotted the old building with dark brown siding. I parked the car and felt a little uneasy as I approached the building with a long line of men wearing backpacks waiting outside the door. I hurried inside to find a large common area and seasoned shelter volunteers ready to lend a hand. As the line of men began entering the facility with friendly smiles underneath their beards, I felt embarrassed for the anxiety I felt just moments ago.
As intake continued, I learned a little more about the lives of the shelter clients. I witnessed their sheer joy for a roof over their head on a 20 degree night and for a warm meal in their stomachs. Their gratitude for the shelter was overwhelming and it made me proud to live in Rehoboth where so many people were willing to help others.
Only recently, my eyes have been opened to the truth of the Rehoboth Beach community. I never knew there were so many people facing homelessness and who went without food for days and without showers for weeks. I was constantly submerged in all the great and rich parts of my town that I was blind to the rest of the community that had always been there, asking for help.
After my experiences in a code purple shelter I see (even more) the importance of volunteering. I have realized that not all people who live in Rehoboth constantly lay on the beach and frequent happy hour. Many people have found where they belong within the volunteer community and that is such a heartwarming thing. No matter how nice and exciting a city may look like on the outside, there is always something you can do to improve it or someone you can help through volunteering.