"After smiling and chatting with folks every Thursday night, it is all better."

Cafe Mana: A second home with new friends

While perusing his degree in Civil Engineering at Valparaiso University, Patterson volunteered his time as the lead student volunteer coordinator at Café Manna, a local outreach program that serves hot meals weekly to the needy.

His love and passion for volunteering and helping others started at a young age. From first grade until his senior year of high school, he was involved with the Boy Scouts and grew from a Cub to an Eagle Scout. In order to become an Eagle Scout, Patterson had to run a volunteer project by raising donation to build picnic tables and fire pits for a local conservation program.

During his freshman year, he began helping out at Café Mana and his responsibilities have grown over the last four years. The best part of Patterson’s job is the interaction with the clients and their appreciation for a conversation, a smile, and help.

“Recently, we had a gentleman stand up and announce that he was celebrating his 25-year mark of sobriety. How great is it to be a part of this with these folks? He was so proud,” said Patterson.

Through his love for the Café, he has led his friends into service to create memorable moments for those who really could use the company and encouragement. The opportunity has allowed Patterson to see the willingness of others to help and be open to the different ways people connect.

Frequently, he is stopped by people wanting to introduce him to their family members, have a conversation or show him a gift they just received. And, he makes the time to make each feel important and special.

“If I have had a bad school week, this is where I go to let it all go. After smiling and chatting with folks every Thursday night, it is all better,” he states. To Patterson, his volunteer opportunity has become a second home with new friends.

Little does he know, his presence means just as much, if not more, to the Café Mana patrons.

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