Once a week for the past four years, Kim Bradley, AKA The Kitchen Queen, has been preparing and serving meals to youth in our Drop-In Day Service program. Kim is our queen because she works so hard to not only make each meal special but make each youth feel special. A compassionate and generous volunteer and active New Avenues board member, Kim engages others in the mission of the organization and invites friends and family to come help in the kitchen, attend events, and donate food and clothing to our programs. We’re so grateful for her efforts!
What is it that keeps you coming back to New Avenues to volunteer every week for the past four years?
I love coming to New Avenues because they actually want to see youth succeed, and they help make that happen. The youth that come in want to get on their feet and make something of themselves. They have goals and are working toward achieving those goals. When you see youth come in for the first time, they are often reserved, do not talk much and don’t have a lot of self-confidence. So over the months of coming in every week, you’re able to observe their growth. They know we are here every Tuesday. I used to have a group of boys who would come in and want a hug before their meal. I consider myself a volunteer “mother” for their lives. It all just makes me feel happy and New Avenues gives volunteers like myself the opportunity to try to make the world a better place.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about youth experiencing homelessness?
The biggest misconception is that they are all bad kids, have been kicked out of their homes, and there’s no hope for them. What I’ve taken away from volunteering here on this matter is that looking at youth from the outside in and making these collective judgments is just wrong. Most people don’t stop and think about why the youth are out on the street. Most of them are victims of their circumstances; neglect, abuse, unsafe living environments, etc. I don’t think these youth are the bad kids they’re sometimes viewed as, but since they are labeled under a blanket of misconceptions, they are often judged that way.
What should people know about New Avenues?
New Avenues for Youth isn’t a shelter or just a place to get a meal. They provide services for youth that can truly change their lives and get them off the street for good. There are youth employment opportunities like the Ben & Jerry’s Partnershop and New Avenues INK, the screen-printing shop. The employment opportunities are a great way for youth to improve their situations and contribute to our community. They can be productive and valuable members of society, and they deserve the opportunity to do so. New Avenues’ case managers embrace the whole person – physically, emotionally, etc. to give them support on all levels. They provide programs where youth can work to get their GED – their tutors in the Education Center are incredible! The happiest day for me here at New Avenues is graduation day! I’m glad to be able to witness how much the staff and volunteers at New Avenues have the desire to help these kids beat the odds against them. These people truly care about the young individuals who need it most.