We’re saying “see you later,” to Lutheran Volunteer Corps members Christina Benoit and Lauren Talley after a year of service amidst a pandemic. Before they head out, we asked them to reflect on their time in Baltimore and at Health Care for the Homeless.
Christina, you’re from Florida and Lauren, you’re from North Carolina. Why did you choose to volunteer in Maryland?
Lauren: I was a political science major and thought I wanted to be in DC, but when I finished the interviews the only place I could see myself was Health Care for the Homeless. It really drew me to Baltimore.
Christina: I also wanted to be placed in DC because I was more familiar with it, but my interview here was way better and I liked what the organization stands for. I said “let’s try it,” and now I love Baltimore. There’s some really pretty spots here. There’s more than the harbor and the food is amazing. I love Baltimore food.
You joined us in the midst of a global pandemic. How has it been to volunteer virtually? What’s given you hope and helped you navigate over this year?
Christina: It wasn’t easy–it took a while for me to get adjusted. Meeting with other people on Zoom was a reminder that I wasn’t alone. Living and connecting with Lauren and having the option to come to the clinic as things improved really helped me.
Lauren: It was really hard, but a month in I got to the point where I was like, “whatever happens happens.” One of the members on my team started the first week of the pandemic, so it was really helpful to have another person who started virtually. Living with Christina made it easier because we were able to go through it together.
What have you learned from this volunteer year?
Lauren: As someone who just graduated, it was really nice to be at the same place for a year working on long term projects and really getting to know my coworkers. From an advocacy and policy perspective, it’s been great to dive deeper into client centered advocacy, prioritizing people with lived experienced and learning how to do that.
Christina: From the beginning to now, I’ve learned how to be more selfless and more appreciative of the things I have and the things that I know. I’ve learned that things could be worse. You know, talking to clients and what they’ve been through and how Health Care for the Homeless helped them get from one point to another. It’s made me think about the things I can do when I get home and just pour out what I learned here in Baltimore.
Any favorite moments or projects you’re especially proud of?
Christina: The article I did for the 5K was a moment I was really proud of because I got to talk to clients, learn more about them and put those experiences into words. It made me feel like I was part of change and a tool to help get someone’s story out.
Lauren: With COVID-19, there’s not a lot of opportunities to organically meet people, so my favorite moments have been when I get to collaborate with other staff. Working on the food pantry involved so many different people and everyone has been so caring and willing to lend their time, even if it was just to meet me on Zoom.
What’s next for you both?
Christina: I plan to go back home to Miami and work on my business – C. Beauty Cosmetics. I’m going to put all my time into it, and I’m revamping right now so I can launch at the end of the year. I’m excited to be working for myself and doing something I love.
Lauren: I am looking for a job in policy. I’d love to stay in Baltimore. But for now, I’m going to see my family in North Carolina…And my dog!