Remembering Phyllis Dodds (1934-2017)

I am so very sorry to share that Phyllis Dodds, a longtime SideWalk volunteer, died [February 3]. Phyllis carried the heart and soul of this organization in everything that she did and she held deep bonds with many of our volunteers and staff.

I first met Phyllis thirteen years ago when she began volunteering at the front desk at Bread & Roses. Much as she has done over the last five years at SideWalk, she became one of Bread & Roses’ most dedicated and most beloved volunteers.

I was struck by Phyllis’ enormous heart when once, as a client at B&R was in crisis (and threatening violence to everyone in sight), Phyllis calmly walked up to him, shined her loving smile at him, and put her hand on his shoulder. I was terrified for her; she was about half his size and he really was spiraling out of control. But he calmed down and began apologizing the instant that Phyllis gifted him her attention. She had that indescribable and incredibly powerful way with people.

Phyllis never called attention to herself. She never made demands on her own behalf. But she was a ferocious advocate for our clients. During planning meetings among the staff at SideWalk, the words “Phyllis won’t like that” have occasionally been the basis for setting aside an idea and going back to the drawing board. Because she has so frequently given voice to our own values and conscience as an organization.

I have looked up to Phyllis since I was a young man. It is difficult to imagine what it will look like to work in homeless services without frequently seeing her smiling presence. Phyllis was a gentle and unassuming person, but her presence—her generous love and her ferocity—has been felt at every moment at SideWalk, whether she was there or not. I think I speak on everyone’s behalf when I say that she will be fiercely missed.

 

Phil Owen serves as the Executive Director for SideWalk

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