Volunteering: how very personal

Coalition for the Homeless could not exist without the wonderful volunteers who help us day and night, on workdays and weekends, through tasks big and small. Periodically, we like to highlight someone who has gone above and beyond to help us serve over 700 homeless men, women and children each night.  Ralph truly fits that description!

Introduced to the Coalition by a former employee, Ralph Addington was frequently sought out for “last minute” assistance. He soon became very knowledgeable about our mission and knew he wanted to be more involved. “Once your eyes are open to what is going on, you have to help,” said Ralph.

Every volunteer, no matter where or how they choose to lend their time, has their own reasons for giving back. Ralph’s were extremely personal.  Running away from home as a teen, he understands the trauma of living on the streets.  Fortunately, he was able to return to a better life; but saw firsthand that not everyone has that option.

In his adult life, Ralph has been a recovering drug addict for over 21 years.  He was fortunate not to have experienced homelessness, but was once on the brink.  Having lost almost everything due to his addiction, he is able to personally relate to some of the Coalition’s clients on a different level than other volunteers and understand their feelings of devastation and hopelessness.  For that reason, Ralph felt that residents at the Coalition needed much help and felt strongly about assisting in whatever ways he could.

As someone semi-retired, Ralph has been able to offer his time and skills to the Coalition however he was needed. He quickly became our “go to guy.” Little did Ralph know the errands on which we were sending him would be the fulfillment of a long-lost dream.

In another life, this small business owner always wanted to break into the music industry, and we were able to give him a small taste. For several years now, Ralph has been the “band wrangler” for the Coalition’s annual Hearts of Gold fundraiser. Whether the task was driving the band around, picking up dry cleaning or locating a spandex outfit, Ralph always had a smile on his face. “The Coalition always thanked me, but I felt like I should be thanking them,” said Ralph.

The generosity of this modest volunteer has not been limited to the Coalition’s events. After developing a relationship with the agency and recognizing our needs, Ralph also became a donor. He started by allowing the staff to borrow 2-way radios from his radio communications business for special events and emergencies. Ralph ultimately saw how important these radios were to us and decided to donate them permanently.

Ralph realized that, in addition to volunteering, he could also offer the Coalition his skill of frugal shopping. As a business owner, he had experience in “shopping around” for the right price and buying in bulk. When he found out about the need for tables and chairs in the Men’s Pavilion, he became passionate about getting the items donated. He soon discovered that finding donors in this struggling economy was not easy. Determined, Ralph decided to buy over 150 chairs and 15 tables himself.

Thanks to Ralph’s shopping habit, the Coalition has been the beneficiary of many online sales and auctions. After cleaning out his office of high-tech gadgets, toys and supplies he did not need, Ralph eagerly put the items up for sale, donating all or a portion of the proceeds to the Coalition. He raised over $3,000 in just three months!

Ralph is very humble and claims that he does not do enough. His generosity and passion for the homeless men, women and children in Central Florida is very evident. The Coalition is extremely appreciative to have Ralph as a volunteer, donor and friend. We can’t thank him enough!