Volunteer returns after decades to share hope with those in need

Amy Ake has a connection to Baskin and Sonshine – StreetWise founders Terry and Pat’s original clown ministry – that goes way back. 

Terry and Pat from when Amy and her family visited Perry Homes with them at Christmas time

“My parents knew Baskin and Sunshine, and my dad did a few side jobs when we were younger. Photography was one of them, and he ended up taking some of their pictures. After that, we started to work with them.

“I specifically remember it on Christmas. After we finished opening our presents at home, we got in our minivan and went downtown. We helped feed the homeless, gave them Christmas presents, worshiped God with them, and just spent time with them. I remember I was always holding a baby!

Amy pictured in back middle

“My parents definitely put emphasis on how important it was to help people that weren’t as fortunate as us. The earliest I can remember going was at eight years old, and my brother and sister were younger than me,” she said. “Volunteering at that young of an age really made an impression on us – seeing the poverty and how differently people lived and dressed.”

Through unexpected circumstances, Amy returned to volunteer at StreetWise in May. This time with her own 15-year-old son. 

“My son had to complete community service hours. As a single mom, I prayed really hard about that situation, because I didn’t really know what else to do or where to take him to volunteer,” she said. “At the time, I wasn’t even familiar with StreetWise or their connection to Baskin and Sunshine.”

But after meeting – and re-meeting – some volunteers, Amy and her son jumped right in. 

“I started to volunteer up there with him, working in both the food and the market. Being in the market – walking around with people as they chose what they wanted and helping them throughout that process – was my favorite,” she said.

“After just a couple of days volunteering at StreetWise, I could totally see a difference in my son, in his attitude and behavior – and in myself, too. At the end of the day, I thank God, because if it weren’t for that situation, we probably never would have come to StreetWise,” Amy said. 

Amy’s 13 year old daughter, Amy, and her 15 year old son

Taking on a new full-time job has changed Amy’s schedule, but she’s eager to get back to StreetWise as often as she can. And until then, she’s become one of StreetWise’s most faithful advocates. 

“Someone handed me a stack of StreetWise business cards the last time I was there, so I put them in my back pocket, and I give them to people whenever I have the chance. If I could, I’d volunteer full-time at StreetWise. It just makes me happy to be able to help people however I can,” Amy said. “And the next time I come, I’m bringing my son and 13-year-old daughter, too!”

To Amy, volunteering her time is an opportunity like no other — and has grown her personally. 

“Why is giving your time so important? Because it’s so needed. This world has so much going on, but volunteering helps you as a person, to be more grateful and thankful and humble,” she said. “If you have the opportunity – even if you don’t think that you’ll be good at it – I’d recommend volunteering, because it’ll change your entire outlook on life, your attitude towards people, and how you act when others aren’t looking.”

Some client interactions hit close to home, and for Amy, seeing someone similar to herself did just that. 

“One woman came with her young daughter and she wasn’t bothered about coming to StreetWise; she was so excited. And I just remember thinking to myself how proud I was of her as she walked around the market,” Amy said. 

Having dealt with difficult circumstances herself, Amy can vouch for the importance of what StreetWise volunteers do for others. 

Of her parents, Amy said, “Without them, their love for the Lord and the Lord Himself, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today!”

“I started to get in a bunch of trouble with the law when I was in my early twenties, and I was looking at going to prison. I begged them to let me instead go to the drug court accountability program. At the beginning of 2018, after a couple of years, I graduated from the Gwinnett County Drug Court program,” she said. “It changed my life, and I’m so happy that I did it. God helped me – God and a little accountability. I’ve been sober for many years now.

“I’ve gone to food pantries before, when I was in desperate need; there were times where I probably could have gone to StreetWise myself. Sometimes your pride keeps you from going and getting the help you need.

“But at StreetWise, they’re just open arms: loving and caring. Even as a volunteer, if there’s something you need, all you have to do is ask.”

Amy has seen God’s faithfulness in her life: in big ways like her journey to sobriety and in smaller ways. Prayer is big for Amy – and for StreetWise, too. 

“My favorite thing about StreetWise is that each morning, we’d get in a big circle and have the chance to share any prayer requests, praises or anything that’s going on. And then we prayed together before we started serving. It was like everybody was one big, happy family; that’s really what it felt like. And helping these other people, that was the one thing that was really important.”

Amy loves seeing the impact StreetWise makes and wants others to see it too.

“To anyone considering donating to StreetWise: I highly suggest you spend a day there; that’s all it would take [to convince you to give],” she said. “Just go up there and witness for yourself what all StreetWise does. 

“They want people to have dignity, whether it’s through getting shoes or clothes or food – just being able to provide that for your family is a big deal when you have children who need it. 

“They just want to give people hope; that’s why they’re there.”