Volunteering at Wallyhouse

Cathedral member and frequent volunteer Victor Young writes about his experiences volunteering at Wallyhouse, an outreach effort by Catholic Charities and based at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church in Kalihi and affiliated via the Third Order of St. Francis, an Episcopal lay order:

The Catholic Workers’ program started in 1933 on the East Coast and expanded to Hawaii, with the foundation of Wallyhouse in 2018 at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church.  Wallyhouse is named after a former Maryknoll priest and chair of the Hawaii Coalition for Creative Housing, Wally Inglis, in recognition of his exceptional support.  At Wallyhouse, Franciscan Catholic Workers David Catron and Barbara Bennett serve the homeless by “…nurturing the poor in body, mind and spirit, non-violent resistance of oppression and practicing radical acts of kindness.” (Wallyhouse News, July 8, 2018).  Located in Kalihi, a low income part of town, Wallyhouse is a highly accessible resource for people in need.  This means that Wallyhouse provides an excellent opportunity for the whole diocese to carry out God’s work.

I started volunteering at Wallyhouse this June.  I enjoy serving at places where the outcome is tangible and immediate.  At Wallyhouse, I can see people coming for the bags that I packed.  Everyone is calm, respectful and appreciative.  Unfortunately, there will always be a need, especially if this pandemic keeps going.  Barbara Bennett reports that the Wallyhouse passed out 3,000 bags and helped over 1,000 people in June.  Because of COVID-19, the Cathedral’s sandwich ministry got shut down, and I am grateful for the chance to feed the homeless through the Wallyhouse ministry.  Now, more than ever, the poor and homeless population need our help.

All of the people at Wallyhouse are very kind.  The people in need support each other.  For example, on my first day, I saw a woman translate for a man so he could get his food.  The homeless who come for food are always observant of the mask-wearing rule and the six-foot distancing guidelines.  The other volunteers are also very welcoming.  They always ask how we are doing, and do the same when someone shows up for food.

We now find ourselves in a time much like the Great Depression, when things were scary and uncertain.  At Wallyhouse, the jobs are easy and understandable because Barbara makes sure all the expectations are clear.  I felt confident in packing the appropriate food in each bag for families or individuals.  The system at Wallyhouse is very efficient because everyone is taught the best way to do things, but could still use help to fill the growing community needs.

During this time of COVID-19, there is a greater need to feed the homeless.  At Wallyhouse, everyone there has the same goal in mind and is efficiently carrying out their responsibilities.  More people will be helped if more people volunteer.  Wallyhouse helps lots of people, and needs you to volunteer to make bags and give them out, as well as to bring sandwiches and bag lunches.