“We're out there rain or shine, and that means a lot to people.”
Abby
Outreach Counselor
Angelo, long-time Outreach Volunteer (left) and Abby, Outreach Counselor (right)

Angelo, longtime Outreach Volunteer, and Abby, Outreach Counselor, talk about what makes outreach at ATC special.

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Angelo: The most interesting part about At The Crossroads and what sets them apart is that, you know, their goal is to be out there and just introduce themselves to people with no expectations. If somebody doesn't want anything from you, you'd be like, “That's totally fine.” If somebody just wants, you know, a toothbrush or a piece of candy, or shampoo, or whatever that's great too. And then just in case in that one day that person is having a serious crisis in their life, or maybe they've hit a point in their life where they—something—they feel that something in their life needs to change, they have people to talk to about it, and that's who the outreach counselors are and you know, that's the services that At The Crossroads has to offer that I think is really unique to them, unlike many other organizations.

Abby: Yeah, and it's very special. It's my favorite part of my job, of being an outreach counselor, is going out on outreach. I absolutely—it's always incredible, and like some nights are slow, some nights a lot's happening, and it can vary, and I, and I like that so much. You touched on just like getting to—we're in people's space and it's truly an honor to be allowed in people's space, especially—I've been here a year and a half, I don't know a lot of—coming out there, and they trust that because we've been around for 20 years and because of volunteers, like you, we have trust in the community, ‘cause we're out there four nights a week, and we don't expect anything, there's no asterisk—there's no strings attached. And if people start to see that we're out there in the rain, we're out there rain or shine, and that means a lot to people.

Angelo: I think for me, as someone who—as a volunteer, I almost feel like I get to step into this world, experience it really deeply, and then I get to step out of it. So, you know, moments that really stick out in my mind are moments where we run into clients that are having very very serious issues. Very very bad days, or something's happened to them or loved one and they need to talk about it. And as a volunteer, I'm not, you know, trained to do that, but being able to be there with the counselor and just watching you guys work and watching you guys listen and offer support—those are the most memorable experiences for me. ‘Cause like, you know, then I sit back after experiencing that conversation and sitting down with the counselors during check-out. You know, and just hearing about what your thoughts were, what was going out there. Those were the special moments when you see counselors really connect with the clients. That's, you know, that's like the rewarding part, that's the appreciation for what you guys do every day.

Angelo and Abby explain why candy packs are so darn important.

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Angelo: It's a little baggie, uh, I don't know, probably like, 4 inches by 1 inch—by 2 inches maybe. And just stuffed to the brim with tiny, little fun-sized candies. Like the Tootsie Rolls and the little Snickers and the Jolly Ranchers, and everything just shoved in there. And there's a ton of volunteers behind the scenes of ATC, and I don't really get to see them as an outreach volunteer, ‘cause I come in after they've done their job. But from what’s been described to me as a workshop of volunteers just shoving candies into these little bags.

Abby: There's an “anchor candy,” and there's a strategy too.

Angelo: And trying to—because it has a little Ziplock top—and attempting to zip the little Ziplock top up so that it doesn't explode. Because that's another thing—when we’re packing bags, if there’s an exploded candy pack in there, that throws the whole thing off. And then you're—you know somebody was little overzealous with the candy pack.

Abby: Exactly, if the label’s facing out so you can see what candies are there. There's a whole—like shout-out to the volunteers that make those candy packs and shout out to the volunteers that donate all the candy during Halloween.

The candy pack is, I mean, we all have a ton—we give out hygiene supplies: shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste, first aid supplies, razors; and harm-reduction supplies: condoms, lube, granola bars, gummies. But there's something about that candy pack stuffed to the brim that for a lot of people is just like a treat.

Angelo: Yeah.

Abby: And some people don't like candy, that's like, and people have asked for healthier snacks too. People want—sometimes we've brought out almonds before, people like that. But candy is just—there's something about it—it’s like, “Hey, we're outreach, we have free candy.” And they’re like, “What?” And it's not just like, you know, a little, Werther's Original thing…[Laughing]

Angelo: It's a good conversation starter, and it's a good way—because you go up to somebody and be like, "Oh, do you need first aid kits, do you need antibiotic ointment, do you need condoms, do you need?" And a lot of people will be taken aback, maybe, because it’s like, "Why do you think I need that?"

Abby: Yeah.

Angelo: Whereas, it's like "Hey, you want some free candy?" You know, and yeah, they tell us not to take candy from strangers but honestly, ATC is like the “backpack people” or also the “candy-pack people.” ‘Cause they'll see us coming down, it’s like "Hey, it's the candy people!" ‘Cause you know, to some people, that's the one thing that they get every time. And that's all they want and that's fine. Like we said.