Alex Cole is an original. For FPE that means she was one of the original founders of FPE over 26 years ago. Today she is the only founder in the network who continues to act as a volunteer coordinator. We recently spoke with Alex to help recapture some of the organizational history, and to learn the secret of her longevity.
Her time with FPE dates back to May 1987 when she gathered with a group of clergy and individuals who were interested in helping families that were experiencing homelessness. As a representative of St. Stephen’s Church, Alex led the charge to involve her congregation. Thanks to the support of the rector and congregation, St. Stephen’s became the 4th hosting congregation in April 1988, a month after FPE opened.
Alex credits Sara Ruth Dorn for her strong partnership over the years. Sara Ruth has been responsible for all aspects of food coordination each time St. Stephen’s has hosted. This includes recruiting and managing volunteers for shopping and preparing meals, and ensuring that the kitchen is well stocked for the families according to their dietary needs.
When asked about her thoughts on what makes a good volunteer, Alex talks about the importance of being a caring presence — simply being there, able to respond as needed. It means not coming in with expectations, but letting the families go about their business. And since life is often uncertain, especially when one is homeless, a volunteer must be flexible and understanding. One of Alex’s favorite moments is seeing a volunteer who starts out with a fear of serving become completely committed.
Alex says that she has started to transfer her FPE activities to another church member who is eager to learn the ropes. She hasn’t said she’s stepping down, though. We have a feeling that year 27 for Alex is right around the corner. At FPE, we couldn’t be more grateful.