Story written by Rachel Mills
Symoni Patel is one of PORCH’s most enthusiastic volunteers, and also one of its most active ones. She will tell you with a big smile, “I like to help!”
Symoni came to PORCH with her The Arc of the Triangle guide about two years ago through a volunteer outreach program that The Arc of the Triangle supports. She had already acquired some important skills while she worked at the Meadowmont Harris Teeter bagging, helping to carry, and shelving. At each PORCH sort, you can find her ably unpacking and sorting donated bags that come in from neighborhood porches like yours, so that the third shift can begin with full stacks of non-perishables, which are bagged up again, ready to be distributed to the schools and organizations PORCH supports. Watching Symoni, you have no doubt that she knows the whole drill.
While she is pretty enthusiastic about her work here, she’s no retiring soul on other days of the month. She loves sports…that’s the first thing we find out about her…especially soccer, which she has played for 10 years, participating in the Special Olympics in that sport, too. She plays basketball in the Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Community Center, as well.
And, she tells us with well-deserved pride, she enjoys writing and dance. What do you write? we wondered. “Oh, poems, songs…and I keep a journal. I love to write. Anything that happens to me, I write it down.”
In fact, she’s a song writer who has performed an original piece at the annual The Arc of the Triangle talent show to a packed crowd at DPAC. She opens her phone to show us the Youtube recording of it with her guitarist accompanist. “Oh, wait!” she adds. “I forgot to say that I also play the ukulele.”
Through The Arc of the Triangle, Symoni’s creativity and determination have a lot of chances to express itself. It’s also given her a great sense of independence, including the ability to live part of the week in her own apartment. PORCH is lucky to have her on our team.
Drew’s a big sports fan, and while his favorite football team might be no surprise…it’s Carolina, of course…he’s also behind the Celtics and the Patriots. Alan explains, “He’s got family in the Boston area.”
Otherwise, water aerobics, cooking classes, and sports make his week pretty busy. Alan has been working with Drew for a year and a half now, helping him through most days of the week. It’s clear they know each other pretty well, which is good because Drew and he are ping pong competitors.
While at first he seems a serious enough fellow, we finally get a glimpse of a more mischievous facet of Mr. McKenna. Apparently, his entry at The Arc of the Triangle DPAC talent show last year was a dip into the dark side. Grinning, he says, “I played Darth Vader!”
It’s nothing short of great community-building when organizations like PORCH and The Arc of the Triangle can share their talents.