You can get on a plane and take a volunteer trip to Haiti — or you can stay right here in Austin and have a volunteer staycation. The innovative new Community First! micro-village from Mobile Loaves and Fishes offers an enriching opportunity to give back to your own community.
The 27-acre master-planned community — which we introduced you to last year — provides affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the chronically homeless in Central Texas. It also has unexpected features, such as the first outdoor Alamo Drafthouse movie theater and soon-to-come bed and breakfast accommodations for visitors and volunteers.
"Why not come spend a weekend or your spring break or summer vacation with us, staying at our B&B and doing volunteer work at Community First!," asks Alan Graham, CEO of Mobile Loaves and Fishes (MLF). "We will be able to rent out vintage Airstream RVs, tiny houses and the bed and breakfast — and there will be outdoor movies, when it’s appropriate."
"Our mission is to empower individuals and communities into a lifestyle of service with the homeless," says Sarah Boettcher, MLF community relations director. "We do this by hosting volunteers on a weekly basis out at the village. Our goal is to use the ordinary events/jobs in our days at the village as the conduit into relationship. Relationship is our No. 1 hope! Productivity is a close second but not our driving force for our volunteer team."
Christine Lena has participated in multiple volunteer opportunities at Community First!. "I made new friends that I look forward to seeing every time I go there, and we work together for the common good of the homeless community in our city," she says.
"I get a deep sense of privilege and joy to be able to work alongside some wonderful people who have the same passion to do good. I started volunteering there because I wanted to do good and bless others, but I am the one who has been blessed by finding new friends and being outdoors and close to nature."
Volunteer opportunities at Community First! range from working with a group of men and women who are leading the farm development and maintenance to preparing lunch for homeless artists in the MLF Art Program. Other volunteer opportunities include harvest and preservation, befriending a resident, food distribution, composting, and grounds beautification.
Potential volunteers can help out for just a day or plan to stay at the B&B (which is expected to be complete by the fall).
Once complete, the B&B will have an associated cost of $30-$40 per night. Volunteers will be asked to pay what they can or provide work in exchange for accommodations. "There’s no obligation," Graham says. "One volunteer may not be able to afford anything, but then another might write us a check for $10,000."
MLF will also rent out the new accommodations to visitors during big events in Austin such as the rodeo and SXSW. Revenue will support funding of the village.
In addition to housing, Community First! helps its residents earn an income. "We want people who live within the community to earn a modest living income through hospitality, food service, maintenance and landscaping; all of these jobs will be done by our gifted residents," Graham says.
To sign up as a volunteer and view opportunities, go here. For more information about volunteering with a group and the accommodations at Community First!, email firstname.lastname@example.org.