Jeremy Fisher, an Indianapolis native, works as both a professional actor and as a server at the downtown location of Café Patachou. Until recently, Jeremy lived all over the U.S., including Chicago, New York City, and southern California. Jeremy has been volunteering with The Patachou Foundation for three years and has enjoyed playing a consistent role at IPS 58. In his free time, Jeremy enjoys being outdoors with activities like hiking and birdwatching. But mostly, he is extremely passionate about helping his community.
How did you first hear about The Patachou Foundation?
My first year at Cafe Patachou, when we started raising money for the Foundation at the restaurants, that’s when I became interested. I grew up in a household where my mother introduced me to community activism at a very young age, so it’s always been a part of my life. So I went online, went to the website, found how to volunteer, and simply started doing it.
How long have you been volunteering and what has made it so fulfilling to you?
I’ve been volunteering with The Patachou Foundation for, well, this upcoming school year will be my third year. This will be my second full-time year at a certain school, which is IPS 58, which is on the east side, Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School. I live near there so that school is already a part of the community in which I live. So I feel very attached to it that way.
I think one of the more rewarding things about focusing on one particular place is that I actually have the ability to build relationships with some of the kids. They get to know me. They know me by name. I get to know them.
I think staying consistent — being a consistent presence to these kids is really rewarding to me and I hope it’s beneficial to them as well. I can tell as they started to get to know me that, when they see you, you’re a familiar face. There’s more trust, there’s more opening up, there’s more conversation. And I think all that lends to the mission of the Foundation itself. In educating kids about nutrition, you need to have that whole part of kids being willing to listen. And they’re willing to listen when you’re a consistent presence. They know you and you’re someone that they can trust. I think that really helps.
I grew up in a working-class household. My family did not have a lot of money. I was on reduced lunch fare when I was young. So, I can really relate to a lot of these kids’ experiences. I grew up in a household where I had a lot of love and I know a lot of these kids do as well. But there are some kids that live in these communities that don’t have as many positive adult presences in their lives. I feel like there’s a responsibility for us to be that for them.
Do you have a favorite memory or story about your volunteer experience?
When they started calling me Mr. Jeremy, that really touched my heart in a way. There’s a kid that goes to IPS 58 who, he’s a really precocious kid and he’s really intelligent. He reminds me a lot of myself when I was young. You know he can get into a little trouble now and then. And there were even times when, last year, he was kicked out of school for a couple days for fighting. I remember one particular day he had been gone and I missed him. I wondered where he was and I was concerned. I was thinking about him a lot just hoping that he was okay. And I remember the day that I came back and he was there. And this kid, he’s so smart, he’s so sweet. And he has this big smile on his face and he says, “I’m back!” And it really touched me.
This whole service to me is, with a lot of these kids, I’m in awe of what some of these kids have to carry in their lives. I’m a real big fan of a guy named Greg Boyle who’s a Jesuit priest who’s worked with gang members in Los Angeles for a long time. And he often talks about when you’re doing service, there’s never a time when I have more courage than some of those kids do. They save me from my cowardice. When I’m lacking in courage, they help me be courageous. When I’m lacking in patience, they help me be more patient. They bring me to my best self. Which is the best thing you find in service; that I’m being helped by them as much as it appears that I might be helping them.
And this kid, he really has been a light to me. And I just want the best for him. And that commits me to want to return to that school for those personal relationships I make. And the thought that maybe even in the limited time that I’m there that I can be a positive male role model in a young boy’s life and just be a positive presence. That’s what stays on my mind.
Why do you think it’s important to understand what some of these kids may be going through?
That’s what Greg Boyle talks about. We have to luxuriate in the mutuality that we all have for one another. I wanna think about it less of me being of service than being, like I said, in awe of what these kids have to carry in their everyday lives rather than judging how they carry it. By having that awe, it removes judgment and I think that’s an important thing for all of us to do in life when we come across people who are from different background and different lives than we’re as familiar with. We have to recognize what people have to carry and how tough it can be.
Can you tell me a little bit about IPS 58, the school where you volunteer?
It’s an elementary school on the east side. In my research, I was surprised to find this, but it’s 46201, which is the zip code in which I live. From what I’ve read, 46201 is the poorest zip code in Indianapolis. So most of these kids are definitely low income. I think a lot of the kids are foster children.
I think the school itself is doing some wonderful things. Their after-school program is really remarkable. And The Patachou Foundation is a part of that. Those kids that are involved in that after school program who have something to do — the thing with these communities is you want to try to find ways to keep kids active and busy when the school day lets out before their parents come home from work so they’re just not out in the neighborhood doing whatever they want to do.
What would you tell people who may be considering volunteering for TPF but aren’t sure? What advice would you give them before volunteering?
Well, everyone is busy. I work 50 hours a week and I’m a pretty busy guy myself. I’m not too sympathetic to the idea that anybody’s too busy to spend an hour and a half a week– that’s really all it takes for The Patachou Foundation.
I don’t really say that to people who are interested in volunteering. What I say is that my experience has always shown me that, in volunteering, it helps me so much as a person. It does so much more for me than the little that I spend doing. It’s so beneficial to my life in seeing the world in a positive way. And I look forward to it. I feel like I’m contributing to my community. The benefits outweigh the amount of work I put in. I get much more than I give.
Why do you think it’s beneficial to get involved in something like The Patachou Foundation?
When I talk about that mutuality, finding that kinship with all these people in the world, I really believe that the only way you can do that– you can’t do that by reading the newspaper, informing yourself online.
I truly believe the only way to do that is to be active in your community. There are all these things in the world today that can be very distressing and I think we spend way too much time looking at these huge pictures when there are problems that need to be solved right here, right down your own block. And all you have to do is walk out of your house and walk a couple of blocks sometimes to find someplace where you can contribute to bettering the community in which you actually live.
Want to join Jeremy on our team of volunteers? Apply now.