It was the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and like so many others, Yull Morales was trying to navigate the new world of masks, quarantine, and isolation. Yull had always been one to volunteer in his community and, despite some trepidation about COVID, decided he would still find a way to help out. “I have been involved with volunteer work for a long time. I have facilitated ‘alternative to violence’ projects in my life, and through the encounters with people in these volunteer programs, I have come across so many blessings.” In lieu of his usual service, Yull located a mobile food drive held by the local organization, Westhab. Although he had not heard of Westhab before, Yull quickly signed up to help distribute supplies to residents of South Yonkers. He was impressed with the level of organization and the dedication of volunteers and staff, and it wasn’t long before he became a regular fixture at the mobile food distribution. “You saw the long lines and the need at every drive. It wasn’t just volunteers, but Westhab staff too that were there helping. I was happy to be part of it all.”
Yull was an immediate asset, serving as a bilingual ambassador for the food distribution team and helping them communicate with the largely Spanish-speaking population at the drive. He also helped with the ticketing system and kept the general spirits of the volunteers and recipients high. “During COVID, a smile went a long way, even under a mask. I don’t know what their situation is, but through volunteering, I learned that there is always somebody with a worse situation than you.”
Yull had been able to maintain his employment in construction throughout the pandemic, but there were no health insurance benefits, leaving Yull feeling vulnerable. During one of his volunteer shifts, Yull mentioned this to Theresa Colyar, Director of Washingtonville Housing Alliance and the coordinator of the food drive. She connected him with her Westhab colleagues at the New Rochelle First Source Referral Center for some help updating his resume and finding employment with benefits.
At the employment center, the specialist Yull worked with made the connection that he would be a great fit for an open position in the Employment Services Department. After a successful interview process, Yull was hired as an Employment Specialist and now works at the Intervale Shelter in the Bronx, connecting clients to meaningful and long-lasting employment and the road to financial independence. “I try to get to know the client and what interests them. If you don’t like what you’re doing, it won’t last. I also go out to the community and business owners and see if I can make connections there.” Yull is working on fortifying the local list of resources and other community organizations to recommend to his clients. He is as dedicated an employee as he is a volunteer.
Yull says the best part of his job is getting to form relationships with, and help people like himself. “A lot of what I love about volunteering, I get to do for my real job now. I am working with people face-to-face, I am in the community, and I really feel I am helping people find meaning in their work too.”
Yull pictured with his puppy, Shadow.
*FYI, the mobile food pantry is still going and is located at the Dayspring Community Center. You can join us every fourth Thursday of the month. For more information, reach out to Theresa Colyar at firstname.lastname@example.org.