While working at UnitedHealthcare, Walter White agreed to fill in for a last-minute volunteer shift at the South Park Inn homeless shelter in Hartford, Conn. He had no idea that chance encounter would become the first of countless evenings spent giving his time to the organization.
“I started out as a volunteer because another person was needed to serve meals, and the first time I went, I was hooked,” Walter said.
Walter joined a group of fellow UnitedHealthcare employees who, for the last 20 years, have volunteered their time twice a month purchasing and delivering food, cooking meals – spaghetti, meatballs, salad and dessert – and serving the guests at the Inn.
The volunteer work supports South Park Inn’s mission to help those struggling through temporary and long-term housing, as well as support services, which includes education, job training and mental health/substance abuse treatment.
“The shelter appreciates it,” Walter said. “More than 90 percent of dinners are sponsored by outside groups, which is a huge help financially.”
UnitedHealthcare’s involvement with South Park Inn has ballooned into an effort that many employees rally around. It’s a coordinated effort, from grocery shoppers and delivery drivers to meal preppers, bakers and servers. Each month, volunteers sign up for their prospective duties and donate their time.
“The moment a mom walks in with her kids, that’s when it really makes a difference and you realize the impact we have,” said UnitedHealthcare employee Stephen Honan, who helps lead the charge each month, coordinating employees.
For Walter, he’s gained perspective through volunteering.
“The important thing is that people are taken care of when they need it,” he said. “Every time, I leave more thankful then when I came.”
Walter retired from UnitedHealthcare in 2017, but he hasn’t retired from helping out at South Park Inn. It means so much to him that he is now a member of the shelter’s board of directors.
For more information and to learn how you can get involved, visit www.southparkinn.org.