Week 12, Day 6: Michael Garcia at Indie Memphis

Michael Garcia with the donation bucket for Indie Memphis at the Levitt Shell.

Today my volunteer assignment was to help Indie Memphis with their concert film series at the Levitt Shell. As with SRVS, I was back in familiar territory with this volunteer assignment. While I was living in Leeds, England, I volunteered for an independent art house cinema, the Hyde Park Picture House, which occasionally featured live music performances. My volunteer job there lead to a part-time job. In fact, almost all the paid staff there started off as volunteers. I loved working there and never really thought of it as a job, but saw it more as an opportunity to hang out with friends and talk about pop culture while putting on films for others. I think the other staff there saw it that way too. Indie Memphis reminded me of the Hyde Park Picture House, not only because of the combination of independent film and music, but because the other staff and volunteers also seemed to view what they do not so much as work, but rather providing good entertainment while you get to hang out with your friends.

Of course there was some work involved. Shortly before the film was scheduled to begin, I was asked to go through the crowd with a bucket, asking for donations to Indie Memphis. Brighid, the program manager for Indie Memphis, prepared me for this task by presenting an example of a short speech I could use to encourage audience members to donate, explaining that Indie Memphis likes to put on the concert film series and live music concerts for free and would like to continue doing so. Also, we would accept any donation no matter the amount. When I actually walked through the crowd, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the audience members did not need much encouragement to donate. I think more than half of the people I approached donated some money, and many of them didn’t even wait for me to ask but had their money ready by the time I got to them. Many of them were regular attendees of Indie Memphis events like the concert film series and were expecting someone to come around accepting donations. They were all happy to donate and quite a few chatted with me for a bit, speaking about how much they enjoyed coming to the Levitt Shell to watch the free concert films. Anyone who donated also received a raffle ticket for the chance of winning the DVD of the first film being screened tonight, the Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus. I stopped collecting donations once the film began. While the film was running, I sat at the Indie Memphis table at the back of the Levitt Shell selling Indie Memphis merchandise, like t-shirts and buttons. Once the film was over, I helped tidy up, and that was it.

The Concert Film series by Indie Memphis at the Levitt Shell.

The Concert Film series by Indie Memphis at the Levitt Shell.

Michael Garcia with the donation bucket for Indie Memphis at the Levitt Shell.

Michael Garcia with the donation bucket for Indie Memphis at the Levitt Shell.

 

At first glance, volunteering for Indie Memphis might seem the odd one out when compared to the rest of my week working with various non-profits in the Memphis area because most of the other organizations work directly with the poor and homeless. Having said that, the events that Indie Memphis organize have a positive impact on the same people that the other organizations are trying to help. For example, when I arrived at the Levitt Shell, I noticed one of the vendors for The Bridge, Joe, selling copies near the venue. The Indie Memphis event provided an opportunity for him to earn money. Furthermore, even though the homeless, jobless, and otherwise poor have the most urgent need for help, it’s important to remember that many others are also struggling financially and without things like Indie Memphis’ free concert film series, they might otherwise have no opportunity to enjoy cultural events.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an historical consultant, researcher or educator. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

Cheers,
Michael

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LinkedIn
Academia.edu

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Week 12, Day 5: Michael Garcia at Hospitality Hub

Michael Garcia assembling donation bags for the Hospitality Hub.

Today was a bit different than the other days thus far on my volunteer odyssey. My volunteer experience today brought me to the Hospitality Hub, located downtown on 2nd Street. The Hospitality Hub is a resource center which offers a variety of services for the homeless, ranging from the simple, like offering refreshments such as coffee and access to bathrooms, to other services like mental health counseling and access to lockers, phones, computers, a mailing address, and identification services. The mission of the Hospitality Hub is to provide the resources people need most to help them make their way out of homelessness. It strikes me that most of these resources are things many people take for granted, yet without which it would be nearly impossible to accomplish things like getting a job or finding a place to live.

My contribution to the Hospitality Hub was to assemble some donation bags and drop them off so that they could then be redistributed to the clients of the Hospitality Hub. Each bag contained snacks as well as items for maintaining personal hygiene. I assembled the bags at home, putting a razor blade, toothbrush and some beef jerky into individual sandwich bags.

Michael Garcia assembling donation bags for the Hospitality Hub.

Michael Garcia assembling donation bags for the Hospitality Hub.

Donation bags for the Hospitality Hub assembled by Michael Garcia.

Donation bags for the Hospitality Hub assembled by Michael Garcia.

Michael Garcia assembling donation bags for the Hospitality Hub.

Michael Garcia assembling donation bags for the Hospitality Hub.

 

When I arrived at the Hub to drop off the bags, the place was very busy! I spoke for just a few minutes with Kelcey, the Associate Director of the Hospitality Hub about what they do there. Although my visit to the Hospitality Hub was brief, it made an impression on me. There are clearly many people out there who need help and are willing to put the effort into improving their lives. It is a good thing that there are organizations like Hospitality Hub, The Bridge, the Green Machine, SRVS, and St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen to help such individuals. Such organizations would not exist without the hard work of dedicated staff and volunteers. I’m glad I live in a world where there are many who sacrifice their time for these organizations, and I hope my humble blog posts encourage others to go out there and volunteer.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an historical consultant, researcher or educator. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

Cheers,
Michael

My profile pages:
LinkedIn
Academia.edu

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Week 12, Day 4: Michael Garcia at The Bridge

Michael Garcia helps out The Bridge.

Today my volunteering odyssey brought me to St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, where The Bridge held a training meeting for new vendors. The Bridge is Memphis’ first street paper – it is a monthly paper sold by the homeless or those struggling to not become homeless. Its content is produced by the homeless or formerly homeless, and contributors are paid for their articles and artwork. The Bridge was founded this past March by students at Rhodes College, some of whom also provide additional content for the paper. Each month, the vendors are given 20 free copies of The Bridge, and they can buy additional copies for 25 cents per copy, and issues sell for $1 a copy. Vendors are given incentives for buying additional copies to sell, aside from the profit margin. Depending on the additional number of copies they buy, they receive free bus passes, a canvas bag or a snazzy vest with The Bridge logo on it. The vendors are also given 10 free copies of The Bridge for each friend of theirs they refer to The Bridge who becomes a new vendor. Vendors are given cards with all the essential information about The Bridge to pass on to friends so that they can become vendors too.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, not to be confused with St. Mary’s Catholic Church where I helped out in the soup kitchen on Monday, is a beautiful neo-gothic structure with gorgeous stained-glass windows that reminded me of the many medieval churches I visited during my time living in England. I passed through cathedral itself, admiring the architectural features, on my way to the Parish Hall, where The Bridge holds its training meetings.

The interior of St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral.

The interior of St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral.

 

On my arrival, I met some of the staff behind The Bridge: James, Monique and Shiven. After helping set up tables and chairs, I sat at a table by the doors to the hall and greeted new vendors as they arrived. I had them give me their name, took their photograph for their badge, and had them answer some questions for a demographic survey. Today we had four new vendors show up for the training session, and I am told that attendance is usually in the single digits. The training meetings happen every Thursday at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral at 1 o’clock.

After getting the names and photographs of everyone, the new vendors were given their training briefing by Roderick, one of the writers for The Bridge who himself endured a decade of homelessness. Roderick explained how The Bridge works and gave some advice on how to be an effective and successful vendor. After Roderick’s briefing, the new vendors were asked to practice their sales pitch on each other. When their practice session was over, I helped distribute copies of The Bridge to the new vendors and returning vendors, keeping track of how many copies each vendor received and any incentives they are owed on a handy Google Docs spreadsheet designed by Shiven.

Michael Garcia helps out The Bridge.

Michael Garcia helps out The Bridge.

 

Although they may be in similar circumstances, there was a stark contrast between the vendors I met volunteering for The Bridge and the people I encountered at the soup kitchen, and I don’t know if it was simply the context. The people at the soup kitchen were quiet and solemn. The vendors for The Bridge were very lively, talkative, and eager to tell me their stories. It might be that I had more opportunity to interact with the vendors at The Bridge. One of the new vendors, Margaret, was very inquisitive about how The Bridge works and how she could become a successful vendor. Some of the returning vendors, particularly Mila and Ron, impressed me with their enthusiasm and entrepreneurial vision. Mila had the bright idea to gain commissions from any advertisers she brings to The Bridge. Tony tried very hard to get additional copies of The Bridge for free.

I was particularly affected by a returning vendor named Ron Butler. If I met him somewhere else, I might not have guessed that he was homeless. We had a lengthy conversation together. He told me how his past employment at The Commercial Appeal and the Tri-State Defender is providing valuable experience working for The Bridge. I also learned that he is a musician who loves classical and jazz, he performed in a military band, and while serving in the military he was stationed in Germany. So we had a moment of mutual appreciation for living in Europe. We even exchanged a few words in German. Ron seems to be on his way to getting his life sorted out, and I really hope he succeeds.

One of the aims of The Bridge is to help change society’s perception of the homeless, and my experience there today has definitely changed my perspective. Although I already knew this, I saw first-hand that people become homeless for a variety of reasons. The vendors I met today are motivated to work hard to improve their situation and The Bridge is providing an excellent opportunity for them to do so.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an historical consultant, researcher or educator. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

Cheers,
Michael

My profile pages:
LinkedIn
Academia.edu

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Week 12, Day 3: Michael Garcia at Green Machine

Michael Garcia on the Green Machine at Advance Memphis.

Today I volunteered with the Green Machine, a mobile food market. I met the Green Machine at its first stop of the day, Wesley Madison Towers, an assisted living complex. Sarah, the founder of Volunteer Odyssey, joined me and we waited for the Green Machine to show up. We weren’t the only ones waiting for the Green Machine either. There was a whole crowd outside Wesley Madison Towers, and they were all eagerly awaiting the their arrival. Several of them discovered that Sarah and I were there to work with the Green Machine, and they politely pestered us about when it would arrive because it was running slightly late. I reassured them that it would be there, and sure enough, it arrived a few minutes later.

The Green Machine arrives at Wesley Madison Towers.

The Green Machine arrives at Wesley Madison Towers.

The Green Machine is a MATA bus that has been remodeled into a mobile food market with shelves of fresh produce and dry goods. It operates Monday through Friday and runs a different route each day of the week, stopping several places each day. The aim of the Green Machine is to provide quality produce at competitive prices in areas where access to good fruits and vegetables is limited. It’s called the Green Machine not only because it offers fresh greens, it is also literally a green machine. The exterior is painted bright green with pictures of produce, a work of art by the students of Hollis Price Middle College High School. The Green Machine also provides valuable nutritional information, offering a variety of pamphlets on healthy eating and different recipe cards supplied by the Church Health Center.

Sarah and I met Aaron, who drives the bus, Karlita, who operates the register on board, and Rachel, who helps run things behind the scenes. We were put to work helping customers with their purchases. One friendly gentleman was not able to go in the bus because he gets around in a wheelchair. So I had him tell me what he wanted and I went on the bus and got it for him and brought it back to him. Aaron often does this for many of the customers, and I was happy to help out in this way. I also carried quite a few watermelons into Wesley Madison Towers for residents and staff. It was a hot and humid day, so the watermelons were popular, along with cantaloupe and peaches. Whenever there was a lack of customers, I helped restock shelves and mop the floor.

Michael Garcia restocking shelves on the Green Machine.

Michael Garcia restocking shelves on the Green Machine.

At noon we closed up shop at Wesley Madison Towers and headed to the next stop, Advance Memphis on Vance Ave, an organization that is no stranger to Volunteer Odyssey. Advance Memphis was founded to help revitalize the 38126 zip code area of South Memphis, one of the poorest neighborhoods not only in Memphis, but in the nation. When we arrived at Advance Memphis, the Green Machine was running low on produce, so Sarah and I made a run to their supplier, Easy-Way Produce. When we got back to the Green Machine, there were several people waiting for the grapes, peaches and cantaloupes we brought back.

Michael Garcia restocking the Green Machine with more peaches.

Michael Garcia restocking the Green Machine with more peaches.

Michael Garcia resupplying the Green Machine with an order from Easy-Way Produce.

Michael Garcia resupplying the Green Machine with an order from Easy-Way Produce.

When we were done at Advance Memphis, Aaron and Karlita had their lunch break, so I tagged along with Rachel to several places to drop off Green Machine flyers to let people know when and where it would stop, including Barry Towers and Legends Park. While driving around to drop off the flyers, Rachel and I had an interesting conversation in which she briefed me about the background of the Green Machine and how it developed out of a project concerned with housing redevelopment and urban planning. The main thing I learned from the conversation is that housing development is a complex issue.

Rachel explaining the Green Machine to Michael.

Rachel explaining the Green Machine to Michael.

Michael and Rachel with the Green Machine outside Advance Memphis.

Michael and Rachel with the Green Machine outside Advance Memphis.

I utterly enjoyed my volunteer experience on the Green Machine. I was really struck by the overwhelmingly positive response everyone had. The residents of Wesley Madison Towers were incredibly grateful for the service provided. Almost everyone there showered me and the others on the Green Machine with enthusiastic thanks. One of the residents, Don, talked to Sarah and myself at length at how great it was for him to be able to buy fresh produce right outside Wesley Madison Towers. His only other option for getting fresh produce entails a long bus ride, which is not ideal when you are carrying a bunch of groceries. Don, like myself, likes to cook, and he entertained us with a recipe for stuffed cabbage. Mrs. Bird, one of the staff members at Wesley Madison Towers, also spoke to Sarah and myself about how wonderful the Green Machine is. She emphasized how important it was for the residents to have regular access to healthy food. It was the same everywhere I went with the Green Machine. Everyone was excited to see the big green bus, happy to buy fresh produce, and generous in their praise for the idea. The people behind the Green Machine certainly hit upon a brilliant idea when they came up with a mobile food market to bring produce to people that otherwise would not have access to it. I am glad to have helped out today and I hope to volunteer with the Green Machine again. I took some recipe cards home with me as souvenirs. I’m thinking of trying the recipe for “Simple Summer Succotash”.

Michael Garcia on the Green Machine at Advance Memphis.

Michael Garcia on the Green Machine at Advance Memphis.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an historical consultant, researcher or educator. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

Cheers,
Michael

My profile pages:

LinkedIn
Academia.edu

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Week 12, Day 2: Michael Garcia at SRVS Learning Center

Michael helps Earnest with a puzzle at the SRVS Learning Center.

Today I was in familiar territory when I volunteered at the SRVS Learning Center. SRVS stands for Shelby Residential and Vocational Services, but everyone refers to as “serves”. Since 1962, it has provided a range of services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including employment and residential services for their clients. Due to my past experience teaching children with special needs when I worked as a substitute teacher, I am familiar with working with individuals with such needs and have found it very rewarding. Although such students can be very challenging, when they display progress it makes all the work totally worth the effort.

Upon my arrival at SRVS, I was met by Allison, the volunteer coordinator for SRVS. We started off with a tour of the Learning Center facilities, which were impressive. The Learning Center moved into its current building only about a year ago, and the new facilities include numerous classrooms, a kitchen, library/computer room, model apartment, music room, theater stage, and a kiln. (There currently isn’t anyone at the SRVS Learning Center who knows how to use a kiln, but if any readers know how, or knows someone who does, and are willing to help, please contact the SRVS Learning Center.) The library/computer room is equipped with a SmartBoard, a piece of technology I really appreciate. It’s like a whiteboard, but it can also be used like a giant computer monitor, presenting whatever is on the teacher’s computer to the whole class, and it is touch sensitive. I have enjoyed using them as a teacher, and I wish that they had been invented when I was a student. No more cleaning chalkboards and dusting erasers. SmartBoards are particularly useful at SRVS because they provide excellent interactive activities for the SRVS clients.

Another feature of the Learning Center that stood out to me was the classroom design. The Learning Center uses a Montessori style curriculum, which is student lead. The classrooms have open shelves with various objects on them. Students follow their own interest and choose what activities they want to do and work at their own pace. This particular style of learning is apparently quite effective with the clients at the SRVS Learning Center.

After the tour, Allison placed me with one of the Learning Center groups, which consisted of Pam, Rosalyn, Patrick, Danita, Lee, and Precious. We decided that I would help them with some kitchen activities. I was happy to participate because I love being in the kitchen. I enjoy cooking and eating. Today we made chocolate chip mini-muffins. We used one of those mixes that comes in a plastic bottle and all you do is add water, shake it up, pour it into a muffin pan and stick it in the oven. I helped everyone in the group have a turn shaking the bottle and pouring the mix. The muffins came out great and were ready just in time for the mid-morning snack.

Michael helps Patrick pour the muffin mix in the SRVS Learning Center kitchen.

Michael helps Patrick pour the muffin mix in the SRVS Learning Center kitchen.

Michael demonstrates how to make muffins in the SRVS Learning Center kitchen.

Michael demonstrates how to make muffins in the SRVS Learning Center kitchen.

Michael helps Rosalyn make the muffin mix in the SRVS Learning Center Kitchen.

Michael helps Rosalyn make the muffin mix in the SRVS Learning Center Kitchen.

When we were done in the kitchen, I joined a different group in one of the classrooms and worked one on one with Earnest, who I discovered to be a mischievous fellow. He likes to tease the others in his group. I helped him work on a jigsaw puzzle and we were able to finish in time for lunch. I joined Earnest and his group on their lunch break, and that’s when I learned how mischievous he could be. He tried to trick me into doing things for him that he is perfectly capable of doing himself and is encouraged to do so by the staff of the Learning Center, like opening sandwich bags and getting a straw. I was told Earnest likes to try such ploys on new staff and volunteers. I am familiar with such tactics from my experience as a substitute teacher. So, along with some help from the regular staff, I was able to see through Earnest’s ruse, but I hold no grudge.

Michael helps Earnest with a puzzle at the SRVS Learning Center.

Michael helps Earnest with a puzzle at the SRVS Learning Center.

 

I find working with people like Earnest rewarding because although he may be clever and cheeky, Earnest lives up to his name. He communicates with almost total honesty and sincerity. Another reason I enjoyed working with the clients at the SRVS Learning Center is their smiles, which are very serene. Aside from Earnest and his colleagues, I have only ever seen such serene smiles on Buddhist monks. It makes me wonder what they know that I don’t.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an historical consultant, researcher or educator. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

Cheers,
Michael

My profile pages:
LinkedIn
Academia.edu

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Week 12, Day 1: Michael Garcia at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Soup Kitchen

Michael Garcia serving soup at St. Mary's Soup Kitchen.

I wasn’t sure what to expect this morning when I pulled into the parking lot of St. Mary’s Catholic Church on the corner of 2nd and Market to volunteer in the soup kitchen. At 7 o’clock on a Monday morning, there wasn’t much traffic on the road and not many people about. I was greeted at the door of St. Mary’s by Martin, who was to be my supervisor for the volunteer experience at the soup kitchen, and he immediately put me to work.

First, I was given some cabbages and potatoes to chop. Then at 7:30, we began serving pastries with a cup of Starbucks coffee. While I was serving pastries to the poor and homeless, Martin said something to me that really resonated and helped me comprehend the importance of the soup kitchen. I had only handed out a couple of pastries by that time, and he came up to me and simply told me to smile and greet the people in line with a friendly “good morning”, because they were unlikely to have anyone else smile and greet them for the rest of the day. I was already aware on some level that most people, myself included, often simply ignore the poor and homeless when they encounter them on the streets. Martin’s simple instruction provided me with their perspective on such encounters, and I had a small glimpse of what it might be like to be poor and homeless. It made me more aware of the privileges I have. I am currently between jobs and if I did not have the excellent network of family and friends that is currently supporting me, I might be in the line at the soup kitchen myself. Thus, I am not only grateful to my family and friends, I am grateful to be able to give back in whatever small way I am able. With this insight, I then greeted everyone else in line with a sincere smile and a cheerful “Good morning!”

After serving coffee and donuts, it was back to chopping cabbages and potatoes for soup. I had some help from another volunteer, Lauren Squires, who you might recognize from Action News 5. Lauren and I were then tasked with stirring the large pots of soup while they cooked, to make sure the soup didn’t stick to the bottom. Once the soup was bubbling, we ladled it into Styrofoam cups to be served. Although I doubted the wisdom of the technique, we stacked the cups of soup several levels high with serving trays between each level. I am often prone to clumsiness, but I am proud to say that I did not spill a drop of soup. As menial as it might sound, I really enjoyed this task because I enjoy cooking and I am no stranger to the kitchen. The soup also smelled delicious. I burned my fingers slightly when pouring the soup into the cups, but that did not bother me because I’ve done worse to myself making roux for gumbo.

Michael Garcia keeps the soup from sticking at St. Mary's Soup Kitchen.

Michael Garcia keeps the soup from sticking at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen.

When I was done pouring soup into cups, I spent some time placing pastries into plastic sandwich bags to make it easier to distribute them. At first, it was difficult to resist the temptation to lick the sugary icing off my fingers, but I quickly realized that it wouldn’t be practical to have to wash my hands between placing each pastry into a bag.

At 9 o’clock we began serving the cups of soup along with tuna or peanut butter sandwiches and fruit candy. The food seemed hearty and appealing. All the volunteers took turns serving. When I was not serving, I chatted with the other volunteers, getting to know them a little bit. It was a diverse group, including Brittany and Nate, a young married couple; Jake, a student at Christian Brothers High School; and Lynn, whose son has autism and really enjoys sports. Lynn said her son plans on participating in St. Mary’s 5th Annual Steeplechase 5k run in September and would love to be on tv after finishing the race. This was my first time at the soup kitchen but the others had been volunteering there for anywhere from a couple of months to many years. They all seemed to really enjoy it and I could understand why. It gave me a good feeling about myself and the community to see others eager and willing to help those that need it.

Michael Garcia serving soup at St. Mary's Soup Kitchen.

Michael Garcia serving soup at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen.

Michael Garcia serving soup at St. Mary's Soup Kitchen.

Michael Garcia serving soup at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen.

The soup kitchen is open every morning Monday to Saturday, and most days they serve 300 or more people. We served a total of around 50 people this morning. I was told that it was less busy than normal today because there was another soup kitchen in a nearby park that doesn’t run daily. There was never a long line of people waiting for food, but we served people until 10 o’clock. Everyone did their part to help clean up, picking up empty cups and trash, washing dishes, sweeping up and mopping down the kitchen. As I left, it was great feeling knowing I had done something worthwhile with my day when it was only 10 o’clock in the morning.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an historical consultant, researcher or educator. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

Cheers,

Michael

My profile pages:
LinkedIn

Academia.edu

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Prelude: Michael Garcia

I recently moved to Memphis from Louisiana via England, where I was conducting historical research as a graduate student. Now that I have finished my studies, I am examining my career prospects. I would certainly enjoy following the traditional route of becoming a university professor, but I am also open to other less conventional options, such as museum work or something that calls upon my research and communication skills.

Although I have been a frequent visitor to Memphis since my sister moved here twenty years ago, I feel like I don’t know the city that well. That is one reason why I am looking forward to my Volunteer Odyssey, so that I can get to know Memphis and its people better.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an historical consultant, researcher or educator. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

Cheers,

Michael

My profile pages:

LinkedIn

Academia.edu

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Week 11, Day 7: Ann-Katherine at the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality

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Tonight was a perfect end to my week with Volunteer Odyssey.  I spent the evening at the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality (DDHH) for their “Sunday at Six.”  My husband John was able to join me tonight, and my friend Julie was accompanied by her fiancé, Reed. The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality is a non-profit agency committed to serving homeless families in Memphis.  When a family is accepted, they are able to stay at DDHH while they are assisted in finding stable employment and housing.  While housed at DDHH, the kids resume their lives at school and adults are assisted with their job search.  They are also helped with any other immediate needs they may have.  One of the greatest things about DDHH is that the families can stay together under one roof.  Sister Maureen (who helps run DDHH) explained that every shelter in Memphis has strict rules about who can and cannot stay in their facilities.  Most facilities that accept women and children do not accept young males over age six.  DDHS is one of the only options for these families to stay together during this period of instability.  The hope of DDHH is to one day expand to more houses and create more opportunities for families in need of a stable home while searching for stable income. “Sunday

 

With Sister Maureen

With Sister Maureen

at Six” is a service held every Sunday night that consists of a group prayer and dessert with the residents of DDHH and anyone who would like to join in fellowship with them.   My favorite part of the prayer was when we were welcomed to share personal intentions and what we were thankful for.   A few residents mentioned their thankfulness for the opportunity to stay at DDHH and the wonderful people who help run it.  You could tell just how much it meant to them to not have to worry about where they would stay for the night.  They could commit to getting their family back on their feet without the extra stress of finding housing.

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After prayer we had peach pound cake and ice cream, courtesy of a sweet family who joined us for the evening.  We then had the opportunity to chat with the residents a bit.  Since school starts tomorrow for most of the kids, we talked a lot about where they were going to school, the fun new school supplies they had, what instruments they wanted to play, and other exciting aspects of starting of a new school year.  John and Reed then went outside to play with the kids while Julie and I spent some time chatting with Sister Maureen about the history and future of DDHH.  Before we left, one of the little boys, Jay Jay, asked John to read him a story.  It was such a precious sight since half an hour before, Jay Jay wouldn’t say more than two words.

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I really enjoyed this end to my week of volunteering with Volunteer Odyssey.  The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality is such a blessing for families struggling with the stress of unemployment and homelessness.  It’s my sincere desire that DDHH can expand its mission to more homes in order to reach more families in the community.

What I learned about myself today: I am thankful for the feelings of stability and safety.  I could not imagine the stress and worry that accompanies homelessness, especially when it comes to providing for a family.  I am so happy for places like DDHH who are committed to keeping the family unit together while assisting them on their road to stability.

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Week 11, Day 6: Ann-Katherine at Indie Memphis at the Levitt Shell

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Today’s volunteer experience was a little different than the rest.  I volunteered with Indie Memphis at the Levitt Shell movie concert series where they were sponsoring a documentary film called Big Easy Express.  The film is about the cross country train tour of Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show in April 2011.  My volunteer responsibility was to chat with people who came by the merchandise table and answer any questions they may have about purchasing t-shirts, obtaining an Indie Memphis membership, or sponsoring an event.  There was definitely an impressive number of people present for the film.  You would think that a concert film would not be as appealing to people as a live concert, but there certainly seemed to be a comparable number of people present to those who attended the summer concert series.  And the film was great!  All three bands are ones I am familiar with and actually enjoy, so I knew I would love the music played throughout the film.  I was able to enjoy the event with a group of friends who joined me once the film began.

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This picture is actually from a few months back because I completely forgot to take pictures while I was volunteering. Still a great picture from the Shell!

The Levitt Shell is one of those gems of Memphis that I love to share with visitors.  Not only is it wonderful because it’s free entertainment, but every event I’ve attended there has been fantastic.  There’s something about being with people from all over the city, sitting on blankets, enjoying the weather, and listening to some great tunes.  It’s a very unifying experience.  Better yet, every event is sponsored by individuals and businesses in the city which really emphasizes the community aspect of each event.  It’s rare you find fun things to do in a city that are free.  The Levitt Shell brings back opportunities for fun that were a common occurrence for my parents and grandparents.  With movies now at a whopping $10 a ticket, my husband and I rarely make the decision to go.  We’re always looking for unique, fun, and cheap things to do in Memphis with friends.  The Levitt Shell is, and will continue to be, one of those places we hope to enjoy for years to come.  I enjoyed this opportunity to give back to a place that has given me wonderful memories and fun times with friends.

The Levitt Shell would be nothing, though, without sponsors for each event.  Indie Memphis sponsored this event, so I have them to thank for a wonderful night of music.  Through this volunteer opportunity, I was able to learn a little more about what Indie Memphis does and the awesome events they have throughout the year.   They connect and inspire indie filmmakers and film-lovers through the all the unique opportunities they bring to the community.  Thank you Indie Memphis for sharing such a fun documentary with Memphis!

What I learned about myself today: I love being a Memphian.  The people, the environment, the enthusiasm:  all are aspects of Memphis that make it so unique.  I can truly say I’m proud to be a part of the Memphis community.

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Week 11, Day 5: Ann-Katherine at Alzheimer’s Day Services

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I’ve been looking forward to this day ever since Julie and I found out what we would be doing at Alzheimer’s Day Services (ADS).  ADS is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving individuals with dementia and their families.  Each new guest is referred to as a “friend” and they spend time at ADS anywhere from a few days a week to every weekday.  Not only does it give caregivers an opportunity to continue working and take a break from caregiving duties, but it’s also a stimulating environment for each friend.  Activities are meant to keep their brains and bodies active, and provide a safe and fun place to spend the day.

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Today, ADS had their “Senior Prom” and we had the honor of helping to set up and participating in the event.  Upon arrival, we were greeted by the enthusiastic receptionist, Tanya, adorned with sash and tiara.  We then met the Development Director, Jon Burchfield, who was sporting a classy suit and bowtie.  By this point we knew we were going to have a fabulous day.  Jon gave us a mini orientation where he discussed how the facility operates, what all they offer for individuals with dementia and their families, and how to respond appropriately to each of our new friends.  He then proceeded to give us a tour of the building and introduced us to all the staff.  Julie and I were very impressed by how much thought had been given to the arrangement of their facility: fun artwork on the walls, areas for activities, a learning kitchen, a quiet room, a beautiful courtyard, a row of lazy boy chairs for relaxing…they had it all.

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Our first task was to help with decorations for Prom.  We blew up balloons and attached them to strings to hang on the walls; then cut out white paper squares to act as tablecloths.  Once lunch was cleaned up, Julie went around the room and helped spice up the tables with tissue paper flowers.  The Activities Director, Norrell, had his microphone and speakers set up, ready to kick off the event.  Not only was the room set, but each friend was prepared for the fun too! All the women were wearing tiaras and most men had on a suit (SO cute).  Once they were guided to the decorated tables for a seat it was time to for Prom to begin! A few volunteers sang songs before Norrell invited guests to come up and dance.  I was honestly surprised that some of the guests voluntarily got up to dance! For individuals impacted by the unfortunate realities of dementia, it amazed me that some of the guests could dance like they really were at their high school prom.  It had to be one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.  But what really warmed my heart was the announcement of the Prom King and Queen.  Norrell requested a drumroll as his reached his hand into the hat of names.  The man announced for Prom King had the most priceless face when he heard his name called.  You would have thought he just won the lottery.  He was overcome by so much joy and honor that it brought him to tears.  He just kept saying “Wow! Oh my goodness! Me? Really! Wow!” Every staff and volunteer was touched by his reaction and I definitely got tears in my eyes.  When the Prom Queen was announced, a similar reaction ensued.  At first I don’t think she understood that she had just been named PROM QUEEN.  But after a few staff reiterated “You won! You’re the winner! You’re prom queen!”…she cried too! It was the sweetest moment I have seen in a long time.  There they were, the new prom king and queen, with their sashes and crowns, wiping tears from their eyes. So adorable.  We stayed for a few more songs, passed out refreshments, visited with our new friends, then our volunteer shift was over.

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The Alzheimers Day Center is such a wonderful place for loved ones with dementia.  I know how stressful it has been for my mom ever since my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and I realize how important places like ADS are not only for the caregiver but also for loved ones.  It’s important for the caregiver to be able to resume his or her life in the workplace or to receive a break from caregiving responsibilities a few times a week, but it’s also important that the loved one is in an environment where every ounce of their brain is being stimulated.  At ADS, there are a variety of activities offered for their guests: cooking classes, exercise, bingo, singing, art, and MORE.  Every activity works the brain and helps to slow the memory loss process involved with dementia.

I had such a fulfilling day at ADS and definitely plan to return with friends in the future.

What I learned about myself today: The simplest things in life can bring so much joy.  My new friends are an amazing inspiration and reminder about how the little things in life can mean so much.

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