Meredith DeLeeuw has created her own #VolunteerOdyssey in order to get to know Memphis better and give back to her new community. She’ll be volunteering with 8 nonprofits and sharing her experience through her blog.
On Day 4 she volunteered with Urban Bicycle Food Ministry. Check out her story below!
To say I was incredibly excited, yet nervous, about my opportunity to volunteer with the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry would be an understatement. Will I be overcome with emotions? Would it be a tough ride? How will people react to me handing out burritos? The more I talked with Lyle Udell, the head of UBFM, the more excited I got. Urban Bicycle Food Ministry is an amazing non-profit started in 2012 by a student at Memphis Theological Seminary, Tommy Clark. He had a goal of delivering food to the homeless, instead of them coming to the food. He started making burritos in his kitchen and handing them out in his neighborhood. Soon the ministry on wheels grew too big for his kitchen and the First United Methodist Church offered their kitchens. UBFM’s volunteers cook burritos every Wednesday night and Saturday morning. They ride all around Memphis with backpacks full of burritos. They have never missed a ride, even in torrential rains and freezing snow. As Lyle said, “The homeless are out there in the elements, so we should be too”.
With my questions running through my brain, I woke up my amazing husband (who decided to volunteer with me on his one day off) early Saturday morning and we headed to UBFM’s headquarters Downtown. Once there, Lyle led us to the kitchen where volunteers were finishing up cooking the breakfast burritos. Once all the burritos were made, we stepped next door and started filling our backpacks. This is much more than a burrito ministry. They had tables full of chips, juice, candy, socks, shirts, bug spray, sanitizing wipes, water, and more. Every single volunteer had a backpack, or even a full bike cart, full to the brim with supplies. After saying a prayer for our ride and for the people we were there to serve, we started our ride through downtown. There must have been a line of more than fifty people waiting for us at our first stop. They greet each person with a simple phrase, “Have you eaten this morning?”, not “Are you homeless?”. It may seem like semantics, but asking in this way changes the perspective. The smiles and thank yous from each and every person that morning warmed my soul. People were genuinely touched that we were out there serving them. The regular volunteers know all the regular recipients by name. Calling someone by their name is a powerful thing. To UBFM, these people are not just homeless, they are people with names and dreams.
UBFM cannot serve our community without the help of volunteers. You can help cook burritos, deliver food on bicycle, or both. They also thrive off donations of chips, bars, juice boxes, water, and more. The people at UBFM are awe inspiring. I truly encourage every Memphian to join on at least one ride. To serve the underprivileged, is to be privileged. It brings everything into perspective. Everyone needs to get out at least once and experience this kind of ministry. I am already planning for my next ride.
I am so blessed to have been a part of a true urban ministry. Thank you and keep up the good work UBFM!
P.S. The ride can be done by young and old. We even had their youngest volunteer ever join us on our ride!
If you’d like to volunteer at Urban Bicycle Food Ministry like Meredith, visit https://serve.volunteerodyssey.com/group/120907-Urban-Bicycle-Food-Ministry