Service Project – Camillus House
Camillus House is a non-profit organization located in downtown Miami that provides humanitarian aid to people in need throughout all Miami-Dade County in south Florida. The organization was founded in 1960 and has grown to become more than an overnight shelter, it is now a haven that allows people to better themselves and surpass the situations in life that were in their way.
For my service project, a group of us students decided to volunteer at Camillus house, and help them prepare for their gala at the Hilton in Biscayne. Prior to the team of movers arriving we helped at their main campus to set up the Christmas decorations within the main dining hall and clear some areas where they had performers. Once the team of movers arrived, we were designated to a theatre in which the auction items for the gala were stored in a cellar like environment due to the lowered temperature inside that theatre.
We had the chance to learn about Camillus House after we accomplished our first task, while we were waiting for the movers to pass. Our community relations manager Alessandra Laricchira gave us a tour of the main campus and went over a few of the things the organization handled. I had always thought that all they did was house and feed homeless. I was not aware of all the programs they had available to help those in need. The charity holds a rehabilitation center, of which we had the chance to meet one of the directors. They also provide access to the day center that allows for people to come in for a warm meal, showers, as well as a change of clothes depending on the day of the week and the gender of the person looking for clothes. It gives the homeless a sense to shop around rather than just telling them here this is what you must wear. They give out small samples of soap and shampoos, things that seem insignificant to most of us but to them can mean the world.
Camillus also has programs for housing, regarding their main campus they have two programs. They are divided into emergency housing, which allows for people to stay anywhere between 30 to 60 days. In Miami approximately 10 beds open each day to allow for new people to be housed in the emergency housings. The other is permanent housing, which is qualified as affordable housing, being that we live in Miami affordable housing is a bit of a myth. This program charges a percentage of the persons income instead of a flat rate. I believe they charge 30% of the tenant’s income and the rest is covered by donation from their respective city or donor. I believe they charge 30% of their income. They stay in dormitory like apartments, where 3 to 4 people stay in each unit.
We loaded carts with the auction materials and moved them to the lower level to be placed onto the trucks from their warehouse. Once the materials were safely, we moved on to the Hilton where we went through the back to unload the carts. We boarded a huge elevator that allowed us to get everything to the presentation floor in one go, though because of other people using it to, we had to make multiple trips.
Once everything was in the room, we began to organize and sort the auction items onto their displays. This was done according to a catalog that created by the gala organizer, Flora Sweet. Most of the items were wines and champagnes, along with pieces of art. Some of which were created by the those housed at Camillus during a therapeutic art session. Items also included were gift cards along with various sports memorabilia and cruise excursions. If all goes as planned the gala will have raised an estimate of 1.6 million to be used as funding, which is a slight increase from last year’s 1.4 million raised for the charity.
The experience we had while volunteering was a rewarding one, knowing that what we were doing would help bring funding towards helping those in need. It also gave us awareness as to some of the realities that happen here in Miami every day. Knowing that not everyone has a home is different than interacting with those in need. It gave us a sense of urgency and a want to continue helping them. I cannot speak for all of us, but I am sure that the other students that helped were also impacted by the experience. To the extent of being eager to lend another helping hand to the organization to further improve our community.
ALESSANDRA LARICCHIA | COMMUNITY RELATIONS MANAGER
1603 NW 7th Avenue, Miami, FL 33136 | camillus.org