Michael Garcia at the Metal Museum

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Of all the organizations I encountered during my Volunteer Odyssey experience, the Metal Museum is the one that best suits my skills, experience, and interests. So I have become a regular volunteer there. 

Now I know what you’re thinking, and no, the Metal Museum does not feature exhibits on Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Pantera and Anthrax. The full name of the institution is the National Ornamental Metal Museum, and exhibits artwork made of metal, including sculptures, wrought iron gates, fences, doors, and other everyday items that have been crafted for aesthetic appeal. The museum is located south of downtown Memphis, scenically situated atop the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.

 

View of the Mississippi from the Metal Museum

View of the Mississippi from the Metal Museum

I really like the Metal Museum and I have found a volunteer position that fits me well. I primarily work in the library at the Metal Museum, although I do get called upon to help out elsewhere from time to time. Library work particularly suits someone with an academic nature, such as myself. I have spent a considerable portion of my life in various libraries. I love reading. I love books. I love perusing shelves just to see what hidden gems I might discover. I also have previous experience working in libraries. While pursuing my PhD in Leeds, England, I had a part-time job working in the university library.

The Metal Museum has a very interesting collection of books, covering various aspects of metalwork: ranging from the history of metalwork from prehistory to the present, to practical handbooks, and catalogs of metal artwork. At the moment, my work at the museum is familiarizing myself with the collection, after which I will write some articles about the library for various trade journals for artist blacksmiths. My aim is to show that the collection at the museum is unique, and that it can be a useful tool for people who wish to research and make artwork from metal.

I am an historian and archaeologist, primarily interested in early medieval Britain. You might not think there would be anything of much interest to me in a museum dedicated to mostly contemporary metal artwork. Yet, when I first started digging in the collections at the museum, I was surprised by the number of books that intersect with my own academic research interests. For example, I found Anglo-Saxon Ornamental Metalwork, 700-1100, In The British Museum, by David Wilson. I’m sure I have encountered this book when I was a grad student. Not all of the books on the Middle Ages are as relevant to my own interests, but some of them can be fun to read. So far, based almost entirely on the cover, my favorite book that I’ve found there is this one:

 

Die Mittelalterlichen Metall- und Holz-Türen Deutschlands

Die Mittelalterlichen Metall- und Holz-Türen Deutschlands

The title is Die Mittelalterlichen Metall- und Holz-Türen Deutschlands, which translates to the “medieval metal and wood doors of Germany”.

In addition to the books in the library, I am fascinated with the objects in the museums collection. The main exhibition currently on display at the museum features the work of this year’s master metalsmith of the Metal Museum, Thomas Latané. He is an American artist blacksmith whose work is heavily influenced by traditional metalwork going back to the Middle Ages. Here are some examples of his exquisite artwork:

 

Padlock by Thomas Latané

Padlock by Thomas Latané

 

Viking axe head by Thomas Latané

Viking axe head by Thomas Latané

 

Ornamental Casket by Thomas Latané

Ornamental Casket by Thomas Latané

You can view all of my photos from the exhibit here, but don’t stop there. Go to the Metal Museum and see it for yourself. It’s amazing!

The Metal Museum has other artifacts in its collection that I find interesting although they have nothing to do with the Middle Ages. I am from Louisiana, and I have an interest in its history and culture, particularly that of New Orleans. I grew up in Baton Rouge, but my father was from New Orleans. His mother was also from New Orleans, and through her I can trace ancestors who have lived in New Orleans since its foundation. Other various relatives of mine have lived in New Orleans at one time or another, including my mother and one of my sisters. I met my wife while she was living in New Orleans. Our courtship took place mostly in New Orleans and we were married there. So what does that have to do with the Metal Museum? If you know anything about New Orleans, you might know that the oldest part of the city is the French Quarter, and that one of its distinctive features is the wrought-iron railings that graces so many balconies. The Metal Museum has a collection of patterns used for many of those railings. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of having a closer look at this collection. Also, in the gardens in the middle of the buildings of the Metal Museum sits a segment from a corn-stalk motif iron fence:

 

Iron Wrought Corn Stalk Fence

Iron Wrought Corn Stalk Fence

This is the same pattern used for the fence at the aptly named Cornstalk Hotel in the French Quarter. I know this because the Cornstalk Hotel is where my wife and I stayed the night of our wedding.

 

My wife, Kat, outside the Cornstalk Hotel in New Orleans

My wife, Kat, outside the Cornstalk Hotel in New Orleans

It’s a lovely hotel and I recommend it if you ever need a place to stay in the French Quarter.

Anyway, I have just scratched the surface of my potential at the Metal Museum, so I expect I will be spending time there for a long time.

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

Twitter

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The Invisible Population

A few pictures of families who have come to the Dorothy Day House
The office/play room downstairs. This space allows the family to search for jobs online while letting their little ones play.

The office/play room downstairs. This space allows the family to search for jobs online while letting their little ones play.

I do not know if I could ever look someone in the eye who has nowhere else to go and tell them I cannot help them. This is what Sister Maureen does on a daily basis; the day before my visit she turned down 5 families. Sister Maureen is the heart and soul of The Dorothy Day House. As I sat and listened to Sister Maureen discuss all that the organization does for the city of Memphis, I was filled with awe, compassion, sadness, and was on the verge of tears multiple times. Listening to her recount how many families she has to turn away made my heart sink and my eyes well with tears. Sister Maureen shared with me how homeless families are the invisible population. You rarely, if ever, will see a homeless family out at night, because they are trying to remain unseen. If they are seen and confirm they are homeless, their children will be taken away.  Sister Maureen says on any given night there are between 100 and 200 homeless families, in Memphis. Some of these families are without a home because of a traumatic event, such as sudden loss of work or a house fire; others are in these circumstances because of generational poverty. Either way, these families are under much stress and want desperately to provide for their spouse or children, but do not have the means.

The large kitchen that the families share in the house

The large kitchen that the families share in the house

I am glad to know that the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality exists and is committed to keeping family units together. There are over 150 Dorothy Day Houses of Hospitality; each are independently run and funded. These houses receive no government or state funding, and are solely sustained on donations. The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality provides temporary housing and support services for homeless families throughout Memphis. With the help of local agencies, staff, and volunteers, the Dorothy Day House provides families with a safe environment, and the means to re-establish their independence. Throughout the family’s stay, they receive assistance with education guidance, parenting skills, employment counseling, transportation, child care referrals, budgeting advice, and access to sources of permanent housing. The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality works with each family to set personal goals and make sure that each family is continually working toward those goals. The staff also stay in close contact with the families after they leave the Dorothy Day House in order to assure they are able to maintain their independence. I will end with a quote from Dorothy Day that truly expresses how my heart feels after my time spent at the Dorothy Day House:

“What we would like to do is change the world-make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended for them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute…we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing that we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.”

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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Why Habitat is Needed

Hard at work
The front of their soon-to-be new home

The front of their soon-to-be new home

Habitat for Humanity is committed to helping those in need, in a very tangible and practical way. When I arrived there to volunteer, I was greeted by Amy, the volunteer coordinator as well as one of the construction managers. Amy and I immediately got busy setting up the registration table with snacks and coffee. Minutes later, construction workers started lining up at the table. Part of my volunteer duties were to have each worker complete a waiver, and give each of them a wrist band and name tag. Once this was complete, the construction manager led the group in the safety talk and morning  prayer. As the construction workers gathered their materials, and got busy working on the house, Amy told me a little about the family that Habitat was building this particular home for. This home was being built for a grandmother and her granddaughter.  The grandmother is in a wheelchair and needed her home to be completely accessible. The grandmother and granddaughter are renting a home just a couple of houses down the street from the site of their new home. Amy explained that their new home was being built with special accommodations to allow the grandmother complete access to her entire household. Later in the morning, the homeowners stopped by to watch their home being built. It was great to meet them; it allowed me to put a face with the project were working so hard to complete. The family loved talking about the different paint colors, carpet, and tile they were going to use in their new home.  I could tell by the smiles on their faces how thankful they were for each of the volunteers and their hard work.

 

 

Working hard on the roof

Working hard on the roof

I really enjoyed my time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity; before volunteering there I was unsure of what the organization was about and how people qualified for the program. Amy, their wonderful volunteer coordinator was excited to share with me about why Habitat is needed. She told me that over 26% of Memphis residents live below the poverty line, and more than 12 % of those have incomes 50% below poverty line. Many of the families in poverty use more than half of their income to pay rent. Three major criteria must be met in order to qualify for habitat housing: a physical inadequacy of a family’s current structure, overcrowding in a family’s living conditions, and overwhelming cost burden. Each homeowner must complete Financial Peace University which is taught by Habitat staff, as well as contribute Sweat Equity hours- by either helping to build their own home or volunteering on another home build. The family’s new home will be ready at the beginning of November. I look forward to being there the day the family gets the keys to their new home. I know they will be so excited.

Working on the porch

Working on the porch

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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Putting the puzzle together

Working hard on the puzzle
SRVS: The Family Answer for Disability

SRVS: The Family Answer for Disability

For the last five years, I have had the pleasure of working with the special needs population. And for the last five years, I have been full of joy and can not picture myself doing anything else. I love being part of helping people learn new skills and growing to their full potential. SRVS (pronounced “serves”) is the only agency in West TN that provides residential, employment, family support, clinical, and learning center services under one roof.

Working on tracing numbers

Working on tracing numbers

For the first part of my morning, I was able to spend time in one of the classrooms in the Learning Center. The Learning Center provides access to progressive learning and the ability to choose activities according to personal interests. The clients in the classrooms seem to really enjoy being able to pick their own activities. When I walked into the classroom, a few of the clients said hello and introduced themselves. I could not help but smile as I sat talking to each client. They were genuinely happy to see a new face. Each client was working on something different. I helped one client put tiles numbered 1-100 in order and then he was to write them out on a grid. He was struggling to get them correct. I had him work on just ten numbers at a time, and he did great! I could tell he was less overwhelmed and this allowed him to perform the task with accuracy. Next, I helped a different client work on a Solar System puzzle. He had been working on the puzzle for quite a while and was making slow progress. I was able to help him look at the different colors on each puzzle piece and use that as a guide to help him figure out where each piece went. When he finished the puzzle, he had a big smile. I made sure to encourage him and let him know he had done a great job.

Working to put together a puzzle of the Solar System

Working to put together a puzzle of the Solar System

A lot of the clients in this particular classroom had difficulty communicating. From my years of experience, I know that there are more ways to communicate than by just using speech. I can communicate a lot by just facial expressions, hand gestures, or even by pointing. I was able to use each of these types of communication while in the classroom. In my past experience working with people with disabilities, it is much like putting together a puzzle. There are many different pieces for each person; for the puzzle to become whole, the different pieces have to be put together in the right order in order to achieve success. Those pieces can include concepts such as communication, level of motivation, sensory input needs, and interest in activities. As the educator, it takes time to discover everything there is to know about each piece and how each interaction affects how the puzzle is put together. If a client does not like music and is otherwise interested in art, these are characteristics I have to take into account when planning activities for that particular client. If a person does not enjoy what they are doing, they are less likely to learn from it. Once I discover how to fit the puzzle pieces together in order to make the puzzle whole, it allows me and the client to benefit the most from their learning experience.

My morning at SRVS reaffirmed everything I knew about my love for those with special needs. My time with SRVS is not one I will easily forget. Though I am there to teach people with special needs, I always end up walking away having learned something new about myself.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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The Poor and Powerless

If money were not an issue and I had unlimited financial resources, I would commit to helping the poor and powerless each day. This was the thought that was at the forefront of my mind when I started my day volunteering at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen. While my heart was heavy, I was full of joy to be able to serve the homeless who do not easily have access to hot, nutritious food.

The day before I served in the soup kitchen I visited Starbucks. While drinking my coffee, and enjoying my pastry in the cool air conditioning, I saw a woman in a walker pass by. She had a sign on her walker saying she was handicapped, and needed help getting to another state. She sat on the corner for over two hours in the 90 degree heat. Not once did someone stop to talk to her, or offer help. My heart grew very sad as I sat there watching her. In two hours, I watched thousands of cars pass by her, not one car halted. Maybe I am the exception, but I cannot stand to pass any one in need without offering help, or a kind word of encouragement, when it is needed.

While speaking with some of the different staff and volunteers at the soup kitchen, they kept saying the same thing,  that they always want to treat the people they serve with respect. I agree with those working at the soup kitchen. I wanted the visitors of the kitchen to know they are respected by me, and that I was not volunteering to make myself feel better. I was volunteering to make sure that they have warm food and full stomachs. As I was volunteering, I never found a moment to take pictures. I did not want the people I was serving to think I was at the soup kitchen just for show, or to do my “good work” for the month. I have always felt a strong passion to help those who cannot otherwise help themselves. Being able to serve at the soup kitchen allowed this to become my reality. As I was handing out breakfast, I was smiling and telling my new friends in line good morning. I was slightly shocked to see so many of them smiling and greeting me in return. If I was in their shoes, I am not so sure I would be smiling. From the outside looking in, they do not seem to have many reasons to smile. But reality is, they are in line to receive nutritious food, they are thankful for the food they receive, and thankful to simply be living.

My time volunteering at St. Mary’s did not start when I entered into the facility, but the day before. Taking a few hours out of my morning to make a difference in the life of someone else is not something I will regret; I hope more people would feel the same.

Below I have included a passage from the Bible that were very present in my heart through this journey.

“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?…And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 25:35-37, 40.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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Epilogue: Adriene Holland

Loading a family's portion of fruit with Catholic Charities Mobile Food Pantry

Most days during my Odyssey week it didn’t matter where I was or what particularly I was doing. What really mattered was this unwavering awareness of love. People doing what they love, acting out of love, and in turn, generating more love. It was also about stepping out of this invisible comfort zone and interacting and participating in new ways while saying YES whole-heartedly to the experience. More than anything, my Odyssey week stood as an affirmation to me and the path of service that I travel and dream of continuing. I can’t imagine not living, working, playing, and growing while making a positive impact on other people. It was such a wonderful time this week and I am grateful for all of the inspiration I received, knowing it will guide me as I move onward and up!

My heart is so full from witnessing an abundance of kindness flowing through this city. It does exist. In more ways than I knew before I started. And it’s beautiful. I think if we all had a taste of service or an idea of what people are doing behind the scenes, down city streets, and in buildings we pass everyday, we’d be better people. We would be inspired to be active participants in change and in making Memphis more awesome (and the world). I know I am. In hearing the stories of the great things already happening here, I hope you have been inspired too.

DSC01266“We say we feel bad about these and other inequities in the world, but the problems seem so deeply rooted as to be insurmountable, and we resign ourselves to ‘that’s just the way it is,’ declaring ourselves helpless to change things. In that resignation, we abandon our own human potential and the possibility of contributing to a thriving, equitable, and healthy world”
-Excerpt from The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist

It’s been a pleasure,
Adriene

Feeding the Hungry

Mid-South Food Bank

During my Odyssey week, I had the privilege of learning more about the MidSouth Food Bank. The Food Bank has three major target populations: children, families, and seniors. The Food Bank has several initiatives for each target population in order to ensure they are consuming nutritious meals on a regular basis. In the Food Bank service area, twenty-three percent of children are considered to be food insecure. The Food Bank has two large programs that allow children to receive nutritious meals. They have three Kids Café locations which each provide nutritious meals twice a week as well as teach the children about the importance of nutritious eating. They also have the Food for Kids BackPack Program. This program provides a backpack filled with nutritious, child-friendly food for children to take home for the weekend. Each backpack contains six complete meals as well as fun nutrition information activities.

The tree is covered in cards that event goers can purchase to help the Food Bank fill backpacks for their program. The tree was displayed at their Miles for Meals event

The tree is covered in cards that event goers can purchase to help the Food Bank fill backpacks for their program. The tree was displayed at their Miles for Meals event

For their feeding families initiative they have a program called Hunger’s Hope. Hunger’s Hope distributes food to different food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, youth programs, senior programs, rehabilitation and residential center throughout the MidSouth. They also have a Mobile Pantry which allows direct delivery of fresh produce and frozen meat to underserved communities.

More than eleven percent of those receiving assistance from the Food Bank are seniors over the age of 60 (over 20,000 seniors). Seniors are the fastest growing group of food insecure individuals. In order to help the seniors in the MidSouth, the Food Bank has the Senior Grocery Program. Each Senior Grocery food box contains food for a senior to prepare and consume at home. Each box contains enough food for one month.

I volunteered to help at the Mid-South Food Bank’s Miles for Meals event, which was a Walk/Run fundraiser for their organization. While there, I had an opportunity to meet their Volunteer Coordinator, Paula Rushing, who took the time to introduce me to multiple team members including their CEO Estella Mayhue-Greer. I ended my day by helping at the ice cream booth.

The MidSouth Food Bank is well on their way to helping ensure each member of our community has nutritious food to eat. On September 19, 2013, the MidSouth Food Bank is having an event called “Stuff a MATA bus.” This event will be held from 8a.m.-5p.m. in the Poplar Plaza Shopping Center. The most needed items include: Money (1$ can provide 3 meals), canned soups and stews with meat, tuna, peanut butter, canned vegetables, and canned fruit. If you would like to contribute to their efforts, please stop by and donate canned food items.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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The Power and Surprise of Influence

The children at Early Head Start love being read to

Today, my heart overflowed with excitement all day, as I was surrounded by smiling teachers and children.  My odyssey at Porter Leath Early Head Start taught me many things; I learned what is it have joy, the importance of investing in young children, and how to be a good role model to them. I loved investing in the next generation and being part of the Porter Leath family!

Porter Leath’s Early Head Start Program is designed for children, birth to three years of age. It allows low-income children to receive all the necessary skills in order to be successful in the classroom. When I arrived, I was given a tour by two wonderful women; the smiles on their faces revealed how much they loved their work. There are six different rooms where children are divided, based on their ages.  While on my tour of the facility, we peeked in each classroom through observation windows.  I was given the choice to choose which classroom I would spend my time, and it was an easy decision. Young children are my favorite, so I chose a classroom with eight, two year olds. Two is by far my favorite age, they are impressionable and pick up on everything just by observing their environment.

Upon entering the classroom, I was greeted with smiles, both from the teachers and children. They were wrapping up circle time but I got to sing a couple of songs before we moved on to the next activity. Circle time is when the children sing songs and read books. I adored circle time because are able to learn fundamental information but in a fun, kinesthetic way. My favorite song was at the end. They sang, “_____ has their jumping shoes on,” filling in the blank for the name of a child in the circle. The teachers called on each student and while we sang and clapped our hands, they jumped and danced around. I could easily tell which children were sheepish.

After circle time the teachers and children transitioned to arts and crafts, where the children made paper-plate self-portraits. Through this activity I was able to work on help the children recognize the different features on their faces. I made it into a game; where I would point to a feature on my face, and the child would tell me what facial feature it was. Then I would point to a feature on their faces and they told me what feature it was. The kids laughed and giggled the entire time.

Blowing bubbles on the playground was tons of fun

Blowing bubbles on the playground was tons of fun

Next we went outside to play on the playground and blow bubbles, this was fun.  The children’s favorite part were popping the bubbles, they created a game where they would pop the bubbles before they hit the ground. After the bubbles, a little girl was playing on the slide and I pretended to grab her nose and put it in my pocket. Before I could say anything, she looked at me and said “My nose! You took my nose!” It was great to see her respond quickly to my interaction, and pick up the game. The rest of our afternoon was spent dancing, listening to music, and reading a few stories.

Story time at Porter-Leath Early Head Start

Story time at Porter-Leath Early Head Start

The facility gives the children a chance at a quality education, both now and in the future. This program is the stepping stone toward success.  It was a gift to be a role model to the children, at this impressionable, young age. There were several times in the day I caught children copying my moves, and repeating things I said; it was a reminder that you never know who is watching.

 

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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Educate. Encourage. Equip.

Educating, Encouraging, Equipping

Today, I learned it is okay to admit and ask for help. When I arrived at Refugee Empowerment Program (R.E.P.) I was immediately able to talk to another volunteer about his experiences volunteering with R.E.P. It was lovely to meet and connect with someone who is till new to volunteering at R.E.P.  I asked him what the experience has taught him thus far. His reply, “A huge appreciation for teachers. They work hard and are devoted to their students.”

Working hard on fractions!

Working hard on fractions!

Moments later we were greeted by Jules, one of the staff at R.E.P. He gave us a big smile and guided us inside the facility. The room was quite big and had several long tables and chairs. It was set up very much like a classroom, just larger. Other than a few volunteers, the room was empty; the children were on their way. I had no idea what to expect from this experience. Quickly, kids started filing in the room.  Before I knew it, the room was filled with children of all ages working hard on their homework.

I was joined at my table by a couple of girls in the 2nd and 3rd grade. They came over to me with huge smiles and asked if I could help them. We worked on several different subjects: English, Math, and even the Bible. It was fun to be able to teach them tricks I was taught when I was their age, to help them remember what they were learning.  The kids were eager to learn and were such hard workers; they did not stop until they were done. We made time for fun and lots of laughter along the way. Soon, the girls were finished and asked to go read. Moments later, two young boys approached the table I was sitting at, and asked for help with their Math homework. Math was always my favorite. I did not realize how much I had forgotten since grade school; I did not understand some of their assignments. It was difficult to admit to the boys that I was unsure of how to help them.

Rules of R.E.P.

Rules of R.E.P.

This experience showed me that I am allowed to admit I need help. These children were very quick to ask for help and say when they did not understand something. I often get caught up in making it seem like I have got it under control and that I do not need help. I am thankful for the children at R.E.P. who taught me how to remain humble and ask for help when I need it. I thought I was there to teach them something; they taught something much bigger in return.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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Day 4: Jenn and The Bridge: The Memphis Street Paper

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Today my volunteering odyssey brought me to St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, where The Bridge, a Memphis newspaper featuring content written by the homeless, held a distribution meeting for returning vendors and training for new ones.

The Bridge gets its name from its aim to “bridge the gap” between homeless and sheltered by giving a voice and income to the homeless community.  Its the first paper of its kind here in Memphis.  Four students from Rhodes College came up with the idea, basing it on similar papers in other cities.  MidSouth Peace and Justice is helping with finances.  The monthly paper is sold by the homeless for a dollar an issue.  Its content is produced by the homeless or formerly homeless, and contributors are paid for their articles and artwork.

At today’s distribution meeting, returning vendors were there to pick up more papers and a few new people were there to train.  All vendors are certified and given a badge to identify them as legitimate sellers. Each person gets 20 free copies of the month’s edition.  They can buy more copies for a quarter a piece and then sell them for a dollar.  The vendors keep all the profit.  One man bought one-hundred copies and said he had sold around 70 in the last few days.

Because the vendors are selling the paper, what they are doing is not panhandling.  I wasn’t too surprised to hear the vendors are not allowed on Beale Street, but I was shocked that they aren’t allowed near some churches.  The Bridge also communicates with Memphis Police to make sure the vendors aren’t hassled.  The vendors are also held to certain standards.  They must wear their badge when they’re selling.  They can’t sell anything other than the paper while wearing the badge.  There’s no harassing and no obstructing traffic.

My role as volunteer was to stack the papers in groups of 20 for distribution.

The college students putting this paper together are working on their own time.  It was nice to witness their dedication first hand.

Jenn Allmon is a journalist and public relations professional with over ten years experience in local television. She can be reached for volunteer or employment opportunities at jennallmon@gmail.com.

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