Every time you buy a Fit Natural Foods meal at Fit Athletic Club, 100% of Fit Cafe profits go to feeding San Diego’s homeless population with Urban Angels. Visit Fitathletic.com or Fitnaturalfoods.com for more information.
By: Dawn Siddons
It twas the season to be jolly and this feature story is a tad bit late but why not extend the holiday cheer? And why should we endorse happiness to but a season? It should be an endeavored goal to the seconds. December’s feature volunteer, Michelle Madarang, explained her understanding of things that matter.
“I just love doing it – I do it for nothing else,” said Madarang as she explained her motivation to volunteer. Madarang’s uncle sparked her interest in volunteering at a young age after he brought her to a charitable 5k as a helper. Madarang said that shortly after her first event she began to read and explore other sources of volunteer opportunities. Cycling, hiking, and running are just a few of Madarang’s enjoyable hobbies.
“I find inspiration from everybody – especially positive people,” said Madarang. “Positive people rub off on me because I want to feel that same energy from the person.” Madarang’s desire of positive attitude seems to exuberate her three self-describing words of humility, care, and happiness. Not only does Madarang’s quaint demeanor suggest her genuineness, her shared story reveals insight to her understanding of things that matter.
Having served in the United States Armed Foces in the Navy branch for close to eight years, working in the medical field, Madarang credits the military for her worldly perspective and compassion for life. Globetrotting as far as Japan, Madarang found cultural demonstration of happiness in simplicity. “People live simple in other parts of the country,” said Madarang. “Materialistic things aren’t the most important and the Louis Vuitton bag is not a necessity.” Lavished items are not high in the ranks for achieved happiness, at least not to Madarang.
“My favorite moment volunteering happens each time I go,” said Madarang. “It’s always a moment for me, a chance to reflect.”
The second feature volunteer for December seems to root into the same philosophy of simplicity. From the small town of Loudonville, Ohio, Michael Cain embodies the persona of a modest man, at least that would be me opinion after sharing a short, slightly broad, and to the point interview. Cain also serves the US Armed Forces for the Navy branch.
Cain is back home in Ohio visiting his family and girlfriend, Raycene, and during our interview he was on his way home from the grocery store. The grocery shopping must have been to prepare for quality time around the table or to stock up for hibernation with all the recent and unconventional weather.
“I enjoy it. I miss it when I can’t go,” said Cain as he explained what volunteering with Urban Angels is like. “I like volunteering with Urban because you have fun – there are rules but then again not really, it doesn’t feel like a job.” With Urban Angels rather than being told what to do, individuals find their own fit in how to contribute. Some of the appreciated tasks include preparing food, setting the table, coordinating food distribution, washing dishes, or even sharing a meal and conversation at the table with the residents because they’re family too.
Cain’s three self-describing words are outgoing, family orient, and empathetic. His hobbies include gym, marathons, and quality time spent with family and friend.“Volunteer means going out of your way to help someone else,” said Cain. “Something small could mean the world to someone else.” Contribute beyond yourself and the opportunity of positive fulfillment increases.
Or to the date of the posting there are 358 days ahead. As the year continues to move forward let it be a personal challenge to become infectious. Treat others as you would like to be treated and act as you would like to be recognized. And remember that happiness IS only real when shared.
(Michelle Madarang, left; Michael Cain, right)
By: Dawn Siddons
“I got bills to pay, I got mouths to feed, there ain’t nothin’ in this world for free.” —Cage The Elephant.
Nothng is free. Not your favorite pair of TOMS, your holiday flavored latte from Starbucks, your friends or even your happiness. Everything has a wager and cost within our monetized lifestyles, interpersonal connections, and even personal understanding of self-fulfillment and happiness. The expenses can be green pieces of paper, investment of time and energy, and personal opinion of sacrifices. Everything has to be staked in someway to achieve a sense of purpose.
“Give of yourself and be grateful for what you have,” said Veronica Saltiel, an avid Wednesday night volunteer and one of this months feature volunteers. Gratitude is a healthy feeling; unfortunately, it is a sentiment that can be overlooked by our busy lifestyles. It’s easy to get consumed in the grind of life but it is important to disconnect and share quality time with people. Social interaction can nurture emotional needs, inspire positive change, and provide a sense of belonging.
“Do as I do and not as I say,” said Saltiel. Commitment, loyalty, and a caring heart are three self-describing words Saltiel validates credibility for within the Urban Angels community. Volunteering close to two years Saltiel is a regular attendee and leader for Wednesday nights at the Salvation Army.
“Interacting with people that go to Urban Angels is my favorite part,” said Saltiel. One of the greatest moments Saltiel felt she experienced happened after serving a mother and her five children. Saltiel said when the family found a home she felt relief and gratified to have helped them along the way.
“In a society that has so much and is so rich, I feel like the volunteering that I am doing helps a little bit to alleviate poverty,” said Saltiel.
Inspired by her family, Saltiel said that they are always giving and helping others and that she always had great role models. Being happy and healthy are her life goals but it is also very important to Saltiel that she be a positive role model along the way. A proud mother of three, Saltiel said that she is grateful to have children doing well for themselves and was happy to share her youngest daughters success in attending Berkley.
“We are only two to three life decisions away from being homeless ourselves,” said Damien Osip, the second feature volunteer of the month. “And not necessarily because of bad choices.” Osip said that we all have choices and decisions to make and not all of them will be as successful as hoped. There is never a full guarantee for anything because life has curve balls.
“After volunteering and living downtown I look at people on the streets differently, said Osip. “I am interested to know their life story and find what resources are out there for them.” Volunteering since April, Osip said it keeps him grounded and grateful as he is gains new perspective of life.
“I’m very fortunate,” said Osip as he explained all that he was grateful for—his family, friends, and the city he lives in. Osip said that anytime he wants to complain he remembers to be appreciative by realizing that the city of San Diego has a lot—e.g. clean water, great weather, and a great community. Osip said some countries don’t even have access to clean water or health systems. Osip said that whenever he finds himself peeved sitting in traffic on the drive home or complaining about trivial things such as finding the “right” shoes he remembers that he is living in San Diego and that he is fortunate to even have access to shoes. Things could be worse.
“Time is very valuable to me,” said Osip. “I believe in optimizing and utilizing my time to its greatest value. Seeking a good balance in enjoying what he does and spending time with those who matter is Osips desire in quality of life. Osip said he enjoys his job with Westfield Shopping Center as an Assistant General Manager but like to disconnect the career responsibilities and enjoys trying new restaurants, hanging with friends for beer or a hike, and hanging with his dogs.
(Veronica Saltiel, left; Damien Osip, right)
By: Dawn Siddons
“In the real world you can pick and choose your friends,” said Katie Ellefson, Urban Angels volunteer of the month. “In the military—worlds come together in differences and learn to understand each other.”
Serving the naval branch of the United States Armed Force Ellefson’s military values influence from her retired naval serviceman father and enlisted sister. Inspired by her parents, Ellefson describes her quality of life to be happy and helpful while respecting Karma.
Considered her life to have been easy Ellefson said she likes giving back to the community and helping those in need. While she may have never experience first-hand misfortunes of basic needs of survival Ellefson understands being down on your luck. Being present and mindful of those surroundings Ellefson beams wisdom at the young age of 22.
“The Naval Academy taught me to get along with all types of people,” said Ellefson. “You learn that people change.” Ellefson explained the diversity of the residence at the connection housing, she said adversities could happen to anyone and everyone deserves a helping hand. What Ellefson favors most about Urban Angels is the simple gestures of a thank you—kind words, a grateful smile, and subtle bright eyes make a worldly difference.
Three self-describing words Ellefson gave herself are happy, loyal, and family-oriented. Like everything in life there is a process, Ellfson describes the function of Urban Angels to be efficient as the volunteers are very cohesive. Ellfson said you can tell that you are making a difference with this organization.
Outside of her soldierly responsibilities and volunteering Ellefson has a niche for sewing and enjoys picking up outdoor activities like surfing. Having been volunteering every Thurs. for the past three months Ellfson will be incognito for the next few months as she sets sail to serve our naval forces abroad.
The second feature volunteer of the month is Roy Duran, a spark of positive energy and devote support of the Urban Angels family. Duran was drawn to Urban Angels in fate when he stumbled upon a pamphlet at the gym and since has been an influential undertake.
“It’s not about serving food,” said Duran. “It’s about making the connections. The people are Duran’s spark of interest and impulse of return. He tries to volunteer at least once a week, if not twice, usually on a Tues. or Thurs. Duran said the residence are just so awesome.
Another navy inspired individual Duran said he ambitions joining the service. He also said one of his long-term goals is to become an environmental politician. While Duran may not understand his outlook on quality of life (he told me this during interview) I think his worldly passion and care for others speaks for itself. Duran said that when he figured out quality of life he’d share.
Three self-describing words Duran gave himself are particular, hilarious, and flamboyant. I must admit during interview Duran provided unique responses to all my questions and, in my opinion, his choice words tailored his personality well.
Nothing short of being an interestingly particular individual, Duran enjoys playing basketball, meandering museums, hanging out with his sisters, reading, and just creating a stirring palette of life. With a fear of aging or as Duran said, “becoming decrepit,” he enjoys moving in youthful spirit—that kind of defiant temperament of no repercussions and no consequence, something we all secretly wish.
In diversity of people and story we all connect because in the grand scope of life, our stories all end the same-it’s a matter of how we get there and what made the journey worth the while. That being said, this is the month of tricks and treats and playful banter. Let these two fervently spirited volunteers remind you to play in the world but also be aware of what matters. Happy Halloween!
(Katie Ellefson, left; Roy Duran, right)
By: Dawn Siddons
“I lost everything I could have wanted in life and I now can finally live,” said Angel Stuart, a gift of humanity faith (aka an Urban Angels volunteer).
A foster care child emancipated at 16, Stuart said it took one person to show her compassion to change her life and create her happiness. Homeless twice, Stuart has moved between sleeping at rest stops, couch sitting, and finding any location of basic shelter.
Even after a rough start to life Stuart experienced greater loss when her daughter passed away at age five in a tragic accident. If I were to ever meet anyone to have an excuse about life being hard I feel like Stuart would have won in my book, but she proves that is nothing close to the truth. Stuart moves against created excuses of being a victim of circumstances and creates a quality of life worth living.
Now at age 31 Stuart lives nicely under her self-earned roof but said there are no strong attachments to her material belongings. Stuart said that quality of life for her is to laugh, live, and love. Stuart is most grateful for good health, a place to live, and her love of art. With a free spirit and expressive lifestyle, Stuart can be found dancing, creating unique clothing, and making people laugh. Stuart is also one of the lead Angels for Monday night volunteering.
“Don’t be a victim of circumstances,” said Stuart. “Don’t feel sorry for yourself.”
This months second featured volunteer coincides nicely with Stuart as both believe in working hard towards something, and coincidentally both were introduced to Urban Angels Darian Kambiz Limo.
“Don’t b****, don’t complain, and good karma,” said Dragan Vasic, the man to speak truth in passionate love (aka known as the other featured Urban Angels).
Vasic is the attitude of “I do what I want,” in the best possible way. He does not seem to carry this demeanor as rebellion of a bad attitude; rather, he represents a positive movement and stands for a reputable purpose.
Coming from a large family with strong values, Vasic said his hard work ethic inspires from his parents who came to America on a boat with no money and built their dream from the ground up. Taught at a young age how to dream and aspire, Vasic said he recalled a childhood memory of not wanting to do a chore until money was thrown in the mix. Vasic said his father taught him to work beyond the motivation of a green piece of paper and to work in a grateful manner towards something for himself. Being grateful for a home with a roof provided by parents who love and work hard for you is a blessing not really understood until older but Vasic’s dad encouraged the mentality at an early age.
God, family, and friends are the three things Vasic is most grateful for. On an emphasis of what he is most grateful for, Vasic said his mother and father are his greatest inspiration. He loves the Packers, working out, and quality times spent with family and friends. Vasic is one of the lead Angels for Tuesday night volunteering.
Urban Angels is melting pot of incredible stories and unique personalities all brought together by a purpose of movement —positive change starting with the nourishment of bodies. What both featured volunteers wanted current and future volunteers to know is that Urban Angels is an open invitation to come as you are to an open table of questions or no question and enjoy a place of no judgment but plenty of compassion. To help or find help more information can be found HERE.
“Volunteer means giving love to other people,” said Vasic.
(Angel Stuart, left; Dragan Vasic, right)
The importance of positive change in a brief Ted Talk Video: