Volunteers Essential in Ending Homelessness

Volunteers are vital in helping Caritas of Austin end homelessness and making Austin more vibrant for all.

“Volunteers make the day in every way,” Community Kitchen Chef Joe Green said. “It would not be possible to deliver a good hospitality and dining experience to those in need without a full staff of volunteers. With the Community Kitchen often being someone’s first experience with Caritas, volunteers help make sure that experience can turn into something that has long term positive impacts on the lives of others.”

This National Volunteer Appreciation Week, we are highlighting some of our incredible volunteers who are helping ensure all Austinites have a safe place to call home.

Shaila Reddy is one of Caritas’ Community Kitchen volunteers who creates a nutritious meal and positive experience for our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

After retiring from a successful career as a software engineer, Shaila wanted to use her newfound time to give back to the community.

“To me, food and housing are two basic needs that all humans have,” Shaila said. “I knew I wanted to volunteer with an organization that met one of those basic needs.”

She had previously volunteered with Caritas before a sickness in the family and the pandemic prevented her from maintaining her regular volunteer schedule. Once she retired, she returned to volunteer in our Community Kitchen, preparing and serving meals to over 250 people a day.

Giving back to the community is an important family value for the Reddy’s, and her cousin, Geeta Reddy, knew that Shaila volunteered at Caritas and chose to give back to Caritas of Austin through sponsoring the Community Kitchen for a day.

“In India, we have a tradition where, when a person you love dies, you host a luncheon on the anniversary of their death for those who are underprivileged,” Shaila said. “Geeta and her husband volunteered a lot together. On the anniversary of her husband’s death, she decided to honor his memory by paying for a day of meals in the Community Kitchen.”

Our Community Kitchen volunteers and sponsors are crucial to our ability to prepare and serve lunch to our neighbors experiencing homelessness, especially now that our Community Kitchen is reopening its dining room after three years of serving to-go lunches during the pandemic.

“We closed the Dining Hall with a heavy heart,” Chef Joe Green said. “But we didn’t skip a beat in service, providing 120,000 carryout meals. The evolution of our service, meals and organization was made possible through the work of our amazing volunteers and staff members.”

Along with providing a nutritious lunch to those experiencing hunger, Shaila said that volunteering in the Community Kitchen provides her with a deep sense of satisfaction.

“Doing something to help people have access to basic necessities leaves you with such a good feeling at the end of the day,” she said. “You know you gave someone at least one good meal a day and have met a need for a fellow human.”

Thank you, Shaila, for your heart for those experiencing hunger and homelessness, and thank you to all our volunteers for spending your time volunteering with us! Together, we are ending homelessness in Austin.