Serving others comes naturally to Rachel Hohneke ’16
She started volunteering in sixth grade and continued through high school. As a first-year student at St. Ambrose, she attended an Ambrosians for Peace and Justice meeting and found like-minded peers committed to social justice and action. They held fundraisers, hosted informational events and volunteered.
"I found my passion for service when I found Ambrosians for Peace and Justice. It fulfilled not only my want to help people, but why I wanted to do it," she said.
In January 2016, Hohneke joined AmeriCorps and worked with elementary students in the Davenport Schools Stepping Stones program. When her term ended, the district hired her as a kindergarten paraeducator and to teach parenting classes, too.
Now, Hohneke is serving a "service year" through Urban Servant Corps, a one-year, full-time Lutheran volunteer program. She is a case manager for Urban Peak, which is the only agency in Denver, Colorado, providing direct services to youth, ages 15 to 24, experiencing homelessness.
Hohneke helps run the drop-in center, teaches classes on healthy relationships, co-facilitates a mindfulness class, helps youth set goals and connects them with community services.
That is half of her job. The rest is outreach.
Hohneke and her co-workers load backpacks and spend two hours a day looking for youth living on the streets. Once found, they offer the youth things that are central to life: food, clothes and a steady, accepting, caring presence.
Many of her clients have unstable or unsafe relationships with adults. Her mission is to be a person they can consistently rely upon, to create trusting relationships. "What I try to keep in perspective is I am a person walking the path with them, helping in any way I can."
She finds joy in her work at Urban Peak. Helping others is very uplifting, and yes, at times, emotionally draining. "Compassion fatigue is very real, and I feel it, but I try to put suffering in a bigger context and find a way to learn from it," Hohneke said.
And, she has.
"Every person I serve is somehow connected to me and to ignore that kinship is detrimental to my service," Hohneke said. "I always keep in mind we are all sisters and brothers in his world, and to take care of one another is the biggest charge I have."