Outside her comfort zone: Sally’s volunteer story

Back then, she’d have rather been swallowed up than serve in the way she does now. 

Sally VanDoorn and her husband raised three children, lived in five different states before settling in Georgia, and have now been serving at StreetWise for 14 years. But what Sally does at StreetWise today was not her choice –  at first.

“We love [StreetWise]; it’s just a wonderful ministry here. God called each of us [volunteers] here for a reason, and it was kind of funny how He called me,” Sally said. 

“At first, I was working in the clothing room, standing all day long. But then I broke my ankle. I asked God, ‘How can I serve if I can’t even stand up?’ And He said, ‘I’ve got the perfect job for you.’ And I knew what that was. There’s only one job here where you can sit down: client advising.

“At first, I felt like Jonah [in the Bible]. I just wanted to run away and have a whale swallow me up so I didn’t have to do what He was asking me to do.”

Despite her initial doubts, Sally came to love her new role at StreetWise.

“I told God ‘I can’t do this,’ but He really spoke to me and said, ‘I know you can’t. But if you’ll let Me use you, I can do it.’ And that’s how I’ve been doing this for almost 14 years,” Sally said. “[Serving as a client advisor] is what I love, and I truly believe that I’m where God wants me. It’s been wonderful.”

There’s no shortage of impactful situations Sally has encountered over her 14 years at StreetWise. But the most poignant happened this spring.

“There was a family – husband, wife, three children and a fourth child on the way – who came in, and their house had burned down. We gave them food, clothes, a wagon full of toys – big, cuddly teddy bears, footballs, Legos – and other things,” she said. “But before they left, I asked if they’d been saved. The wife immediately said yes, but the husband said ‘I’m really hoping that I’ll get to heaven.’ So I told him that we could get that settled right then. I shared the gospel with him, and he got saved.

“They didn’t have an appointment, but we were able to serve them in their emergency. It was just awesome and made me want to cry.”

Giving people essentials, like food and clothes, in their time of need is something StreetWise is proud to do. But the spiritual and emotional support provided through prayer and encouragement is at the very core of what StreetWise is all about, too.

“We’ve figured that the average family of four gets between $315-$400 worth of food every time they come to StreetWise. But not only do we give people food, we also pray for them,” she said. “We try to be very encouraging and very uplifting, because there are people going through some really bad stuff.”

“We have some very good sponsors that donate to us, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this is all from all [ultimately] from God. I always say, ‘God, I just want you to have the praise and glory for every good thing that comes out of this building.’”

One of the unexpected blessings Sally has received volunteering at StreetWise? Meeting her best friend Candy.

“It was a divine appointment that God put the two of us together; I’ve had the best three years of my life laughing with my new ‘sister’,” she said. “You make wonderful friends [at StreetWise]; it’s really just a big family. Everybody here is just so kind and so concerned about everybody, and we all care most about the same thing: giving God the glory.”

Even with all of the good, everyone wakes up some days not wanting to help others. But for every time she hasn’t felt the motivation to show up, Sally has received blessings that prove the worth in what she’s doing at StreetWise. 

“Some days, I don’t want to come. Some days, I’m kind of in a bad mood. But when I get here, everything changes.

“[With the people we serve] It could be a life or death situation; people really could be starving. To know that we’re helping them just makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside,” she said. “I’m not here to get the blessings; I’m here to serve. But you sure get blessings when you are serving.

“When you know that you’re making a difference in somebody else’s life – it’s life-changing.”