Volunteering at the Well: It’s a Blast

It only took one visit and 17-year-old Cyler Deisler was sold. “My mom told me about it, and she got me to go the first time and I really enjoyed it. And we ended up going back and we kept going. I’ve always thought it was a blast.”

“It” was helping out at the Well Community’s Thursday Night Life dinner, and his mom, Rebecca Puchkors, had been introduced to the volunteer opportunity through a colleague at Baylor University. “She told me she had been doing some volunteering and bringing students there, and I thought it sounded like such a great place and such a great mission. So, I started volunteering,” says Rebecca. “I thought, ‘What a great opportunity for my son as well.’ We do it every month. And then, as I teach [mental health nursing], I bring my students a couple times a semester as well so that they can experience it.”

Rebecca and Cyler’s response to Thursday Night Life is a common one. Volunteers who help prepare or provide and serve a nutritious weekly evening meal to Well Community members often report similar feelings, and many come back to volunteer again and again.

Cyler, Rebecca and other Thursday Night Life volunteers offer more than good food and kindness. They often engage with Well members to hear what is going on in their lives. What may seem like normal, casual conversation is actually a gift of listening. Adults who are a part of the Well Community live with long-term, severe mental illnesses and rarely find someone who will befriend them and take time with them.

“I love just talking to people, getting to know their background and everything about them, and also giving them meals, providing for them,” says Cyler. “We talk about some things like about what’s going on with them or their living situations. Just really getting to know what kind of person they are is always interesting. I learn about things they do throughout the day. I really like hearing about that.”

Getting to know Well members has helped Cyler to better understand people he may see out in the community who are struggling with mental health issues and has built compassion in him for them. “I’ve learned they are people just like everyone else. They’re just normal people and you should just be nice, respectful, no matter what,” Cyler shares.

Because of his experiences over the year and a half that he’s been coming each month, Cyler has encouraged other teenage friends from Forney High School to join him. “I always tell them how much fun it is and how good it makes you feel and why they should do it. I tell them that just it’s very different than other dinners. You prepare it, you pass it out and then you go sit and talk—you’re really listening more than talking. And a lot of high schoolers don’t really do that. So, I have to try and help them prepare for that. They always ask to come after the first time,” Cyler says.

As Cyler continues to volunteer and bring others, he says it benefits not only the members, but the volunteers themselves. “It makes you feel really good knowing that you’re doing something good and helping others,” he says enthusiastically.

The Well Community is always looking for big-hearted volunteers for Thursday Night Life or other programs. Check out the opportunities here.

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