Name: Stephen Arel
Day job: Singer in the LA Opera chorus
Organization of Choice: Project Angel Food, an organization whose mission is “to nourish the body and spirit of men, women, and children affected by HIV/AIDS” and other life-threatening illnesses by preparing and delivering free and nutritious meals to those in need.
I volunteer because I’ve been with my partner for 17 years, and we are very blessed. I just felt like, being in my 40s, it was time to give back, so I started driving to deliver food and working in the kitchen about four-and-a-half years ago.
I volunteer for a few hours every Wednesday, and then sometimes more if they need extra help.
I typically volunteer on my own. I brought my father-in-law once when he came to visit, and my partner, who works for Keller Williams, brought his whole team in once.
Eighty to ninety-percent of the time I’m in kitchen doing whatever the chefs need, from packing meals to chopping to helping put a recipe together, to making cookies—it’s anything a regular restaurant would have to do.
I don’t feel like I’m giving up anything by volunteering. Yeah there’s a little bit of time and a little bit of energy and sometimes I’ve walked away with a blister from using a knife for a couple hours, but I’ve never felt that I’ve given something up.
In return, I get a little bit of pride that I’m actually able to do it, and that it’s helping out people that I don’t even know. I used to deliver food on a regular route, and it was amazing how it touched those people’s lives.
From one volunteer to another, I would say make it fun for yourself so that you’ll want to continue volunteering. For me, that means engaging with other people. I would also say don’t stress yourself out by being over committed, because then you won’t want to do it. And go in with an open mind. Think, I may not be able to chop an onion at home but they can show me and I will learn. Also: comfy shoes are always a good thing.