They could be elsewhere—at a ballgame, having dinner with friends, working late. But they are not. Instead, every Thursday evening from 5 to 8 p.m., a handful of volunteers come to The Well Community in Oak Cliff to join in worship and serve the meal they have provided and prepared for Thursday Night Life. One of our weekly events, this is an evening of worship and good food, where Well members—those who deal with mental illnesses—are invited to fellowship with one another and volunteers and staff.
Volunteers at The Well are a diverse group. Some come on their own, wanting to serve those whose daily lives are consumed with mental health difficulties. Others are part of outreach teams or adult Sunday school classes from local churches. Some are retired. Some are in their 20s. Some drive from as far away as Frisco, Texas. Others live just down the street from Cliff Temple Baptist Church, where The Well Community meets.
Each week a small group of these volunteers provide a nourishing meal, sometimes prepared from scratch in the church’s kitchen. They serve the nutritious food to The Well members at folding tables and fold-out chairs. For many Well community members, it is the only substantial meal they will have all week. Some volunteers find that after serving a few times, they develop friendships with the participants—people they might otherwise never meet.
Giving and Receiving
While one might think it’s The Well members who receive the most from Thursday Night—and certainly they do—when volunteers are asked about their experience in helping at The Well, they immediately respond that the impact on their own lives is huge. They are quick to admit that they receive much more than they could ever give.
Chuck Bealke and his wife, Shirlee, serve at The Well together, he for the past six years. Even though they moved away from Oak Cliff to Plano, they keep returning to Thursday Night Life.
“There’s a huge difference down here,” says Chuck. “The need in Oak Cliff is so much greater.”
A retired Air Force airman and IT worker, Chuck is familiar with mental illness. His first wife’s daughter dealt with schizophrenia, and that’s one of the of the reasons he keeps returning to volunteer at The Well.
“People with mental illness in their family understand,” he says.
Allison Garza has been serving meals at The Well for eight years, and regularly helps alongside the group of volunteers from her church, Kessler Park Methodist Church. One of the most rewarding parts of volunteering for her: interacting with Well members not just on Thursday nights, but when she sees them out and about in Oak Cliff. She often runs into them outside the grocery store or walking along the street.
“We have neighbors who need help,” she says.
Many volunteers also cite how working with Well members changes their perspective on what it’s like to struggle with a mental illness. It broadens their view of the world, making them realize how similar we all are, and how great a burden some of us carry.
Want to serve?
Volunteering at The Well is a small commitment that has a great impact on the lives of those who deal with mental illness in Oak Cliff. We are always looking for new volunteers or church groups to help serve at Thursday Night Life or help with other events. Think you might be interested? Don’t hesitate to call or email! We would love to answer your questions and find the best place for you to use your unique gifts.