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Kiki Butgereit, for 21 years of service with Mercy Care, addressing the healthcare needs of the homeless.

Whenever the Mercy Care mobile unit parks outside the Union Mission, it's likely that Alice Butgereit is inside listening to the pulse of the homeless.

As a volunteer with Mercy Care, "Kiki," as she's called, is the first person the homeless see when they come for medical care. It is work that's pretty in her DNA.

"My father was a doctor in Birmingham," she said. "He had a lot of poor patients that he saw and he never charged for anything."

It left an impression.

"I thought how horrible it must be not only to be homeless but to be sick and not able to get help," she said.

It's that compassion that's moved Kiki to care for the sick and suffering poor in Atlanta every week for the past two decades.

"She brings a spirit of humanity that's just so... dynamic, alive, compassionate," said Angela Ebberwin, Kiki's sister. "Kiki is the volunteer anyone would die for. She's fabulous."

She makes the job look easy, but it's a tough clientele and not everybody's cut out for it.

"I do it because I enjoy it, people need it, nobody wants to do this for homeless people," said Butgereit. "I don't know what they have in their heads about what this is. They're just people that don't have a home."

With every conversation, every smile and gentle touch, Kiki breaks down barriers of mistrust and despair and replaces it with dignity and self esteem. Some might call it a thankless job, but Kiki has story after story to the contrary.

Her patients aren't the only ones. Her fellow workers are thankful, too, for her passion and seemingly endless energy.

LEARN MORE: www.mercycareservices.org

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