Volunteer Appreciation Spotlight: Bruce

As we recognize all of our wonderful volunteers this week, we sat down to speak the volunteer that has the most logged hours working with Howard Brown: Bruce P.

Bruce has been volunteering with us since the mid-90s and has worn many different hats in that time! Check out our conversation with him below!

To hear from more volunteers, check out our previous Volunteer Appreciation Spotlight featuring Jerry, Lex, and Potter! And if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer yourself, you can learn more at our Volunteer page.

Bruce P.

How did you first hear about Howard Brown and what made you want to start volunteering with us? 

A friend of mine who I met through Chicago House. I volunteered at Chicago House and he lived in one of their facilities at Augusta House. I got very friendly with him and took over as his conservator to take care of his money and things like that. And all of his medical care was through Howard Brown. I used to take him to his appointments and they always treated him with such dignity that I said, “If I ever volunteered a little longer, I would do it at Howard Brown because I loved the dignity that he had.” He had such a very sad story too. 

When was this?

That was in the early 90s, when people died of AIDS. He died in 2001 but I met him in 1993 or 1994. And Chicago House is a great organization too, but I don’t hear too much about it.They used to have us go to Augusta House. It’s a big building and people live independently there. They were big apartments and they had maybe three to four men there. And then they had another building right next door that housed families with AIDS. And these were not people that were HIV positive, these were people living with AIDS. 

I worked at the time. I used to go there, take them shopping, take them to restaurants, take them places that they didn’t get to go out to during the day. Because they had no transportation. It was a very secluded area, too, and nobody knew about it because the neighborhood would have been in an uproar if they would have known that it was an AIDS house. Sorry, that was a long answer.

Long answers are good! I appreciate them for sure. So you’re volunteering with the Brown Elephant now. But you mentioned that in the past you’ve done hospital visits and things like that. What has your volunteer work with us looked like over time?

I started handing out condoms on National AIDS Day. That was the first thing I ever did for Howard Brown. Then I did a couple of special events. And then I helped open the Clark St clinic with DaVon Anderson. It was a doctor, DaVon, me at the front desk, and a pharmacist. And now it’s huge! It was just four people at first.

So I used to work three days a week and then there were other volunteers there, too. And I did that for almost six years. After that, I decided to transfer to the Lakeview Brown Elephant and I’ve been happy here ever since. Matt is great. Logan is great. All the people, everybody is just great.

What do you think is one of the best experiences or memories that you’ve had volunteering with Howard Brown?

Definitely working with DaVon and opening up Clark St. I think that was, you know, it was just all new. It was really, really new and I really enjoyed that, that was fun. But that was the highlight. And meeting her! Because we have a personal relationship now, which is very nice. She’s a wonderful, wonderful person.

Why do you like and spend so much time volunteering? 

I don’t know. It always feels good to do something for someone else. It feels good to me. To do something that I know is important in the bigger picture. It’s Important. I know that the work that I do and the money that we make here will benefit someone.

How much time do you think that you spend in a given week volunteering? How often do you do this here or anywhere else? 

Just once a week. And then I also do some volunteer work for ALIVE animal rescue. When they need a transport, I’ll go pick up a dog at Midway Airport. Or if someone is fostering a dog and they don’t have means of transportation, I will take them and their dog to a vet and then bring them back home. And then I have a friend who had a stroke who’s 83 years old and I take him to the grocery store once a week. I like to try to fill my days doing things for people because someday there will be a day when someone needs to do that for me.

What other things do you do in your free time?

I’m close to being fluent in French. So I study at least an hour to an hour and a half a day. And I walk. I try to walk ten thousand steps a day. And what else do I do? I do Wordle every morning. And I’m very social with my friends, as far as going out and having a coffee or going to dinner. And I like to travel.

Do you have any words of advice for people who might be thinking about volunteering with Howard Brown?

Just in general, volunteering is rewarding for the person. You get as much out of volunteering as you put in. And I don’t know if that’s a spiritual thing or the way it was set up in the universe, but you always gain something from volunteering. Whether it’s knowledge, or meeting people, or something else. So many people I know, I wouldn’t know them if not for volunteering. Do it for the experiences and for the people you’ll meet. You get a lot from giving, it’s the way of the world.


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