2013 Next Step Breakfast Volunteer Testimony

During our annual Next Step Breakfast, on May 22 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Margaret Cohen, long-time Samaritan Ministry volunteer, shared her testimony of working with participants and specifically her involvement in our HIV/AIDS services. The text of her testimony is below. For more information about volunteering with Samaritan Ministry, please visit our Volunteer page

[img_assist|nid=4721|title=Samaritan Ministry Volunteer, Margaret Cohen (photo by Jacob Reiskin)|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=511|height=640]"It is truly an honor to have the opportunity to share with all of you the many ways being a part of Samaritan Ministry has transformed my life and my way of thinking about home, family and community.

My name is Margaret Coan and I have been a volunteer at Samaritan for about 15 years. In that time, I have been given the opportunity to serve in a variety of ways. 

I first learned of Samaritan Ministry from Martha Wolf who came to the Partner Parish I was attending. The way she spoke of her work and the enthusiasm that shone in her made me want to go find out more.

My first assignment was being a front office coordinator. In this position I had the opportunity to be the first person to welcome the participant into our "home". I was so inspired and moved by their willingness to be open, authentic and vulnerable. They would share their stories of challenge, struggle and perseverance as though we had been friends for a long time. They were living examples of what faith was in action and they inspired me to meet my own challenges in new ways.  Listening to their stories was nourishment to my soul.

I loved this work so much I asked about what was required to be a caseworker and learned I had the credentials. I began as a volunteer once a week and worked my way up to an internship in the Northern Virginia office for two years.

Through all these experiences I learned so much about myself, about others and what motivates us all to keep persevering.  I learned that to help someone is not about fixing or changing them but rather about loving them just where they are.

I am now working on the Spiritual Programs at Samaritan Ministry.  The Spiritual Retreats and luncheons for those living with HIV/AIDS, and facilitating the Sacred Listening Groups.

How has all this experience shaped my understanding of home, family and community?

I used to think of home was where I lived with my biological family; today I think of home as anywhere that creates an environment for things to flourish  A place we are accepted just as we are, where we are encouraged to not give up and where we are loved without condition.

I used to think of family as those people who shared the same parents; today I think of family as people who are related in a special way.  Where members recognize we are all on equal footing and each of our gifts and talents are an important part of the health of the family.  Where each member shares and desires the best for all members.  A true family is grounded in the roots of compassion and understanding rather than competition.

I used to think of community as any group of people unified by a common interest.  I now think of community as any group of people who desire to practice living their faith with one another.  To practice forgiving, turning the other cheek, and loving their enemies.

Samaritan Ministry is a place that I call home, it is my family and it is the community I am given the opportunity to practice living my faith.

At Samaritan Ministry all members of the community have the opportunity to practice living their faith and creating their dreams together one step at a time.

I invite you all to be a part of or home, family and community, and as David said, your life will be changed in ways you might not imagine.

Thank you very much.