This past December, a group of guests at Brother Francis Shelter had the opportunity to attend The Nutcracker at Atwood Hall – an event which left a lasting impression on many of those who attended. One guest in particular saw the importance of the event for his fellow guests from the very beginning. LaVont worked with staff in the days leading up to the performance to create excitement for the event amongst the other residents and organized sign up. “I think we needed it as much as we enjoyed it, you know what they say – the hardest part about anything is just showing up,“ he said.
During the event, he was delighted to run into an old basketball friend from high school who he hadn’t seen in over 20 years. “It was like time had been washed away and we were back [in high school] having fun. I didn’t think I’d ever see him again.”
Of the ballet itself, LaVont expressed excitement, mentioning he had often heard of The Nutcracker from others, but had never experienced it himself. When he got the chance to finally see it, he said he was ‘immersed.’ “The whole stage and theater and how everything was set up, it really felt like we had left the planet and went some place where we could fit in and be normal. Where we could be a part of something bigger,” he said.
Since the performance, LaVont has connected with BFS staff about the effect the event has had in inspiring him to give back to his community and work to motivate others to do the same. “We sit here in this building and sometimes we forget who we are, who we were to the community – that we belong out there with them, to give a part of who we still are back to the community,” he said a week or two after the event.
LaVont grew up in Anchorage, just up the street from Brother Francis Shelter. When he was younger, he and his brother were inspired by their mother, who owned a local beauty salon, to be involved in their community and would often organize street clean ups with other neighborhood kids. He went to college later in life, but said the four years went by fast. He is still enthusiastic about his field of study, saying he wants to use his degree in software engineering towards bettering his community.
He spoke further about wanting to foster a positive outlook and a sense of community within the shelter and beyond: “I would like to be a positive part of the community that I live in. For me that’s important, because when I was younger, you know, I went and played basketball at the city gym – we’d be there all day, and you know – there’s a camaraderie there, between your friends. It’s like you’re a part of a bigger population, and you can make a difference, and to me it’s worth it.”
LaVont is passionate about creating more understanding around the issue of homelessness, “What I’d like is to put a face to the homeless population, because I don’t think that people know that we make a difference too. And that we can make a positive difference within our community.” He expressed interest in going to an upcoming community council meeting to introduce himself. He spoke about some of the stereotypes he has seen others express about people who stay at the shelter, like himself, and said, “I’d like to change their perspective – to let society see their preconceived idea may not be exactly correct. This is who we are, this is what we do – and we have a place in our community where we belong.”
LaVont has plans to give back to his community and inspire others – starting with creating a positive environment for other guests at Brother Francis Shelter. He detailed a plan to hang up positive affirmations and spoke about the importance of encouraging others to dress up and take pride in their appearance. “I want to do it because it’s the right thing to do. We are homeless – not hopeless. Together we stand, divided we fall – my mother always told me that.”
Tickets for the event were generously provided for by our friends at Conoco Phillips and the Anchorage Concert Association. Thank you!