Five Fast Facts about EJ de Lara
Each year, Miriam’s Kitchen’s Case Management team welcomes a new group of volunteer corps members. And each year, they knock us out with their tireless passion, energy and commitment to our guests! This week, we’re getting to know a particularly energetic new addition at MK, Jesuit Volunteer Corps member, EJ de Lara.
Where are you from, and how did you come to Washington, D.C.?
I’m originally from San Francisco, CA. I studied Political Science, Social Work and Economics at Loyola Marymount, and planned to go to grad school in public health or social work, like many of my friends are doing. But when it came down to it, I felt that I could always do grad school any time and JVC was my calling. Especially when you’re placed at Miriam’s Kitchen, who can turn that down?
Tell me more about life as a volunteer corps member.
Being a volunteer corps member teaches you how to be self sufficient and independent. You’re placed in a new city, given a full time job at a non profit, and you are only being paid enough to cover basic needs. Throughout the year, my housemates and I follow JVC’s four core values: simple living, social justice, community, and spirituality. Personally, it’s challenging for me to live simply and not call my family and ask them for money. But I’m learning to appreciate so many other things in life– food, shelter, etc. – and I want to challenge myself to really live into this way of life. Working at Miriam’s Kitchen has opened my eyes to the challenges that people face every day and has made me appreciate everything much more. Being at Miriam’s Kitchen as a volunteer corps member is an opportunity of a lifetime and I’m so happy to be here.
What has been your best moment at Miriam’s Kitchen?
As a case manager, my best moments are when we’re able to assess a guest’s needs and walk with them in solidarity to meet those needs. My favorite quote is from Father Greg Boyle: “Kinship is not serving the other, but being one with the other.” Recently, I have been working with a guest to get him into a transitional housing program. Being able to hear his story and find a program that meets his needs has made me feel more connected and passionate in getting him housed.
The mission to end chronic homelessness in D.C. matters to me because:
From living in big cities all my life, I have seen homelessness right outside my door. This has been such a disheartening issue for me and has made me extremely passionate about homelessness. I believe that everyone deserves a place to call their own home. People shouldn’t be vulnerable on the streets but be able to live safely and protected in a home. I want to fight for those who need a home and stable living. I am grateful to be at Miriam’s Kitchen working with an amazing team of individuals to “Guide People Home” and to one day end chronic homelessness.
Tell me about the clothing closet
We give out clothing to 150 people each week! People from all over the community donate the items and volunteers help me sort and fill orders for our guests. It’s an important service, especially with it almost being hypothermia season!
Our guests are asking for warm winter clothes – pants, boots, jackets, sweaters. Since they’re living on the streets, their clothes often get wet or are stolen.This is about human dignity: found that just giving someone a clean pair of socks or a new scarf makes a difference.
If you want to support EJ’s work, there are numerous ways to contribute clothing to our guests. People are encouraged to place an order on our Amazon Wish List, or coordinate a community clothing drive with their family, friends or co-workers. Please note, we do not accept clothing donations over the weekend, but are happy to receive them Monday — Thursday, 6am to 6 pm, and Fridays from 6:00am to 3:00pm.