Andrea McLaren volunteers as our Client Appointment Co-ordinator. For many of the people we serve, she is the first face/voice of MHO:FB. We are so grateful for the work she does in helping us minister to our vulnerable friends. Below, in her own words, Andrea tells us why she volunteers at MHO:FB.

Of course most people volunteer for the sheer pleasure of giving back. It’s the obvious reason, right? And then a very strange thing starts to happen. The more you give back with your heart, mind and soul, you start...receiving. What an amazing turn of events. I found myself in this situation at Matthew House Ottawa: Furniture Bank (MHO:FB).

My name is Andrea McLaren and I’m the Booking Coordinator for MHO:FB. I speak with clients wishing to shop for household items, Referring Agents who inevitably use our service to help their clients and I liaise with our other volunteers who help our clients once they arrive at our location. I have had many different experiences while working…most of them pleasant…on occasion I have been in difficult situations but that is par for the course of volunteering…and on those days you say to yourself, “What am I doing here? ” and then the next call comes in and it all makes sense again.

I have had many memorable situations. Here are just a few of them:

I was calling a client to book his appointment to come and choose his furniture. As we talked he told me that he once was a successful self-employed business man, married and happy. Then he fell ill…very ill and his wife left him. He was left with no money or home and found himself in need of our services. We spoke for about an hour and then he said, “I have been humbled due to my situation and I thank you for taking so much of your day to talk to me…you have given me much more than just furniture.” It was heartwarming for me and I have never forgotten that conversation. He taught me to be forever grateful for what we have because at any moment it could be stripped away.

On occasion I find myself working evenings to try and reach clients. On one such occasion I connected with a client who was walking outside. In further speaking with her I realized she was very distraught and needed assistance. I encouraged her to stay on the phone with me until she reached the hospital. We talked about her situation, I asked if she had anyone she could call and I asked her to keep telling me where she was as she walked along the street. We kept talking and she eventually made it to Emergency. I thanked her for staying on the line with me and knew she would be just fine. At any given time we do not know where others are at in their lives. It reminded me to be ever mindful of those that are troubled and to be open to helping wherever and whenever we can.

It was a normal day for me…I woke out of my comfy my daughter off to school…had breakfast…and started to call clients. The woman answered the phone, I introduced myself and told her why I was calling, to book her appointment to come and choose her furniture. She started to cry. I apologized for my intrusion at what seemed to be a very bad time in her life and said I would call back… She said,” No no..I am crying because I actually get that will get me off of the floor…I’ve been sleeping on it for 3 months…” I was overwhelmed. She was so grateful for any piece of furniture she was entitled to. “Entitled to?” Those words just hung in the air.

At MHO:FB we provide much more than just furniture. We provide dignity, respect, an ear to hear and arms to embrace. In return, we receive an abundance of blessings, grace and humility. I work with the most amazing team of selfless individuals who commit to days, evenings and weekends without hesitation. We all have our role to play and it’s a well oiled engine that serves those in need to the extent to which we can help and sometimes…way beyond. I am forever grateful.

VolunteerAshley Reiter