Comment I posted on today's DG
: Back in the early days of CharityFocus, we had a non-periodic-but-recurring-every-now-and-then volunteer event which we originally called "Help the Homeless" or "HTH", but eventually remonikered "Hear the Homeless" or "Hear the Hungry". Grocery stores often gave in-kind contributions that would, in the space of a few morning hours, be transformed into 200-or-so vegetarian sandwiches, a piece of fruit, and a bottled water. Volunteers would then take the bag-lunches to the streets in teams of three-or-four, covering the San Francisco neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of homeless people. The idea was not to give the food to someone who was hungry or appreciative of a free meal; it was to sit and eat with them. Afterward, the volunteer teams would sit for a few hours and share stories
of their experiences. Invariably, the aspect of the encounters most visibly appreciated by the people of the streets was the company, not the food. (Hilariously, we often got got comments like, "These sandwiches are good, but you forgot the meat.") Living in state of social marginalization, connection with those beyond their immediate community seemed to be a largely unmet desire. As with most service opportunities, the take-away for the volunteers was many times greater than whatever kindness they had been able to bestow.