Earlier this year, my husband and I started "alphabet dating." We would spend time together doing something that starts with each letter of the alphabet. For our letter "D" date this past February, I planned a morning of volunteering at Dégagé Ministries for us (following a breakfast of donuts, of course).
Before the date, I emailed Holly, Dégagé 's volunteer coordinator, to set it up and the following Saturday we spent our morning serving at their hygiene desk. We had a great time, but because my husband and I both work weekdays, I assumed this would only be a one-time experience for us. However, when Holly came to speak at City Chapel’s first preview service, I felt God calling me to step out of my comfort zone and add my name to their list of substitutes, so I could volunteer while on summer vacation. Since joining their volunteer team, I have been able to serve two more times.
Dégagé’s Hygiene Facility
Dégagé 's hygiene facilities are located on the second floor of the building and offer a variety of services for men and women in poverty. Patrons are able to access hygiene services from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Some of their hygiene services include free showers and a laundromat where patrons can wash and dry their clothes for a small fee. Patrons can purchase socks, underwear, t-shirts, hats, gloves, and other clothing items for a small fee as well. Twice a week, licensed professionals come in and provide haircuts. Hygiene bags filled with toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, and deodorant are distributed weekly. There are lockers available to rent so patrons have a safe place to keep their belongings and Dégagé also serves as a mailing address for those who do not have a permanent residence.
As a volunteer at the hygiene desk, one job I have is helping the patrons sign up for services. After they are signed up, we add their names to lists and keep track of whose turn it is to shower, do their laundry, or use the phone. This organization is important because Dégagé serves over 100 people at the hygiene desk each day! We want to respect everyone's time and make sure they have access to the services they need during the few hours the facilities are open.
One of the main jobs at the hygiene desk is sorting and checking mail for those who use Dégagé as their mailing address. We also fill cups with shampoo, conditioner, and body wash and make sure fresh towels and washcloths are available. Volunteers keep track of the money or vouchers used to pay for laundry or clothing items and we use the master key to open lockers for patrons who need access to their belongings. While doing each of these small jobs, the most important thing is we have the opportunity to show Christ's love to the patrons by learning their names, listening to their stories, and serving them with love and respect.
My husband and I live about a half mile away from Dégagé and, if I'm being honest, before volunteering there, I used to fear walking down Division alone. I would avoid Dégagé's corner if I was by myself. I had seen and heard arguments on the streets and thought everyone standing outside the doors wanted to cause trouble. So, I stayed as far away as I could.
When I volunteered without my husband for the first time, I was nervous and even afraid as I approached the front doors. I wasn't exactly sure where to go and one of the patrons (who in my head I had made out to be a trouble-causing thief) asked me what my name was and if he could do anything to help me. I told him I was there to volunteer at the hygiene desk and he showed me which doors to enter and pointed me in the right direction. It was then that I realized how wrong and judgmental I had been. I prayed, asking from that moment on, that I would be able to serve in a way that showed Christ's love as the patron's kindness did for me.
Dégagé and its volunteers make an impact by providing for the basic needs of those who are living in poverty, but the relationships built between staff, volunteers, and patrons are making an even bigger impact on the Grand Rapids community as a whole. Dégagé 's mission statement is "to reflect the love of Christ to all who walk through our doors by building relationships and offering programs that foster dignity and respect" and I am so thankful to be part of the amazing ministry happening there.
Curious about getting involved? Dégagé is always looking for more volunteers on the substitute list! Each week, the volunteer coordinator sends out an email with days and times substitutes are needed for the week and there are always shifts available. Dégagé's website also has a product wish list. You can shop using their Amazon wish list and items will automatically ship there, or you can purchase the items and bring them directly to Dégagé. The easiest and best way to help the ministry would be to pray for their staff members, volunteers, and patrons.
God is doing amazing work in the hearts of everyone at Dégagé, and if you feel Him prompting you to be part of it, feel free to catch me at the next City Chapel service to learn more about how to help!
City Chapel is proud to partner with Dégagé Ministries. Learn more about our partnerships.
Written by Ashley Martin