Volunteer Spotlight: Michael Christian and Paige Shelton
Co-chairs, Cooking for a Cause Gala
Michael Christian, Olivia Vanderyt, Charlotte Vanderyt and Paige Shelton.
When Michael Christian and Paige Shelton began volunteering three years ago at the Iron Gate soup kitchen and food pantry, it immediately became a family affair.
“We wanted to get the kids (daughters Charlotte, 9, and Olivia, 11) involved in community service,” Shelton says. “Feeding hungry people was something that the girls could understand, even at their young age.”
Introduced to Iron Gate through their church, St. John’s Episcopal, the family was attracted to the nonprofit’s simple mission: “To feed the hungry and homeless of Tulsa — every day.” They volunteer together the first Saturday of every month.
The importance of volunteerism has apparently clicked with Charlotte and Olivia.
“Serving food to the hungry makes me feel very fortunate that I have a house and food, and that I am a help to my community,” Charlotte says.
“After volunteering at Iron Gate, I feel very good and that I’ve made a difference for the better,” Olivia adds.
How has your family been impacted by volunteering at Iron Gate?
Shelton: I’ve been most impacted by the sincere gratitude of those we are feeding. It’s the small things that stand out in my mind, like when a guest looks me in the eye and says “thank you.” I know that we are not solving all of their problems, but at least for one day, they’ve had a hot meal.
Christian: Obviously a hearty meal to a hungry person makes a difference. However, what stands out the most in my mind is when I see the kids interacting with the guests. Their faces light up and they laugh and joke with the kids. For those being served, the food, acknowledgement and conversation bring a sense of ease. For the kids, it brings humanity to a group of people that is often ignored or overlooked. I’d like to believe a difference is being made for both.