Gillen Catherine Briede, a senior at St. Mary’s Dominican High School, has experienced firsthand what it means to be homeless for one night.
Her most rewarding volunteer experience has been working with the “Homeless and Hunger Awareness” event held yearly by the school each November. That evening, Briede and other students spent a cold fall evening in boxes outside of a church. The group couldn’t bring electronic devices or food into the event, so all of the students had to think of creative ways to pass time.
“Not having electronics meant talking, starting a fire to keep warm and working together to construct the cardboard shelters we would be sleeping in overnight. This gave us a very small look into what it’s like to be homeless,” says Briede.
Throughout the night, different groups of people came to talk to the students. On physician gave a presentation about the physical and mental challenges faced by the homeless on a daily basis, while police officers discussed past encounters with homeless people. Besides experiencing how it feels to be homeless, everyone involved pledged to donate clothing, canned goods and toiletries to bring to homeless shelters.
For the past two years, Briede has volunteered for “Hogs for the Cause,” a local pork cookoff and concert experience that donates all proceeds toward providing economic relief to families with children with pediatric brain cancer. Over the past two years, “Hogs for a Cause” has raised over $100,000.
Christine Briede, Briede’s mother, is her inspiration to become an activist. Ever since Briede could remember, her mother would be involved in different organizations and events associated with the Junior League of New Orleans and her sorority’s national philanthropy, CASA. Her mother strongly encouraged Briede and her sister to attend events and activities sponsored by these organizations.
“Growing up in an environment that’s geared towards giving back has pushed me towards working with the community,” says Briede. “If it wasn’t for my mom, I don’t think I would be as involved as I am.”
Briede is also involved with the Christian Leadership Council, Pro-Life Club, Key Club, Eucharistic Ministers and Catholic Youth Organization for St. Francis Xavier Parish where she serves as president. Briede, who graduates this spring, hopes to attend a state college in the south but doesn’t know exactly what she wants to study, just that she wants to become a child advocacy attorney and work with an organization like Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).