Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Cheryl

In keeping with the tradition of amazing HIP volunteers, allow us to introduce you to Cheryl. Cheryl has been volunteering with HIP since spring 2015, where she started off doing Friday repackaging. Then, about a year and half later when Wednesday Senior Meals began, she started doing meal prep, then serving, and now she’s a regular installation every Wednesday (and sometimes Friday), cracking jokes in the HIP kitchen and at the community center. This “free spirit” (as her mother used to call her), who grew up on the east coast, came to Washington out of high school, where she studied Communications and Theatre Arts at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

“When I was growing up we had one of those windows near the top of the ceiling, and it was facing west. And I distinctly remember thinking, ‘The sun is still shining in the west.’ There was a little culture shock when I got here, though, between northwest culture, class, and race. So it took some getting used to because it was very different.”

She eventually transferred to the Evergreen State College, which was a much better fit for her free-spirited nature. There, she was able to write, sing, and produce her own “revolutionary” music, mainly centered around the theme of standing up for your beliefs. Her music had many different influences, including 70’s R&B, reggae, Brazilian music, and other ‘world’ music.

Through the years Cheryl has worked in the fields of sexual and domestic violence, facilitated workshops on diversity issues, cooked in restaurants, and spent a lot of years doing temp (mostly office) work, which she loved because she got to do so many different types of jobs. She has also volunteered as an assistant in the Shoreline Goodwill job-training & education program’s computer lab and at last year’s annual Seattle King County Community Clinic at Seattle Center. Having a mother who was a teacher and a father who was an electrician, “teaching, tinkering, and volunteering” is in her blood. She also believes that giving and being of service is the most meaningful thing a person can do with their life, which is what drew her to volunteer at HIP.

“I like serving people. Serving, as in not just, you know, literally serving food, but being of service to people. I loved being at Goodwill because I could connect with so many people from so many different backgrounds. And when you can have that kind of connection, you see people are not where they came from; they’re not what they look like or appear to be. People are people, and everyone came from someplace and has a whole life. And I love being able to recognize that. And coming here, preparing food and serving it, I get that again.”

Above all things, Cheryl believes in kindness. She is inspired by people like Angélique Kidjo, the Dalai Lama, and Pope Francis (and insists that everyone should see the documentary “A Man of His Word”), but she also draws inspiration from everyday, ordinary people – those she’s heard about and the ones she meets every day.

“There are so many kind people in the world. People have to understand that, no matter how much money you have, or resources, material objects, food, whatever – there’s so much kindness in the world. And with the current social and political climate, people have gotten really discouraged. But I’m actually optimistic because of the way I’m looking at things. Yes, lots of stuff is going on. Lots of people are being hurt, and harmed, and killed – and there’s still a lot of kindness in the world. It’s inspiring to know that everyone has this capacity. So, I just get hope from everyone.”

Thank you, Cheryl, for the reminder to be kind, and thank you for modeling it every day!

P.S. Aside from music and theater Cheryl has also done several pastel drawings. Some of her works will be exhibited at the Swedish Multiple Sclerosis Center 9th Annual Art Show at the Armory South Court in Seattle Center on June 23-24. The show opens at 10am and admission is free – check it out if you have the chance!

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