Dorothy Day House: Keeping Families Together

Keeping families together.
Keeping families together.

Keeping families together.

Homelessness is unfortunately a huge problem within the city of Memphis.  Memphis also has a high rate of poverty, which at times leads to homelessness.  Thankfully we have the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality. The Dorothy Day House provides temporary housing and support services for homeless families.  By working with other local agencies, staff members and volunteers help provide families in need with a safe environment and the means to re-establish their independence. The key is keeping families together.

As I arrived, I was greeted by a very kind and goodhearted woman by the name of Sister Maureen. She really took the time and talked about what the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality (DDHH) is and why it is important to make sure that families who find themselves homeless should be able to stay together.  A family sticking together is key when re-establishing their independence and knowing they are always there for each other. The House can only hold three families at a time.  Most families stay at least six months or more depending on how long it takes them to get their feet back on the ground.  While I was there, I got to meet one of the families – a single mom with her daughter and son. I also was able to be there for their Sunday night prayer service which involves a prayer, a reading, and a reflection and of course dessert.  I learned that the Dorothy Day House not only helps the families find jobs, but they make sure that goals are set.  Goal setting is a great tool and positive outlet to help a person get to self-sufficiency.

Dorothy Day House has a goal themselves. They hope to have an apartment area for residents from the DDHH one day.  Once residents have found a job, the key is to save their money, but also to get their independence back by finding an apartment to live in. This apartment could be a starting point until they are able to find a more permanent place to live.  It usually takes $150,000 to keep DDHH funded.  DDHH is solely based on donations from private donors and charitable organizations. Sometimes people get concerned with wanting bigger and better things and they lose their focus.  We need to stop and think of others.  It is good to be thankful and content with what we have and start caring for the homeless. Does having it “all” make life any easier? Not necessarily, but showing compassion for others through God’s love is living for Him.  Also, when you die you can’t take your worldly possessions with you so why not help our brothers and sisters out if you have the means financially.  I love how Sister Maureen said she came to Memphis to be a choir director but God definitely had other plans for her life.

Here is a list of items they are in need of.

Here is a list of items they are in need of.

Thank you for reading! Blair Hayes is searching for a job where she can merge her enthusiasm for our community with her education and experience; she can bring a positive attitude ministering to high school students, college-aged students and families.  If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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Prelude: Alexandra Samsell

prelude

The traditional first step of any introduction begins with stating your name.  My name is Alexandra. Why did my parents give such a petite girl such a big name? Well, it’s not just a preludename – It means “Protector of Mankind” and that’s who I strive to be. I was born and raised in Southeastern Virginia where I received a Bachelor of Arts in Communications at Old Dominion University. Next Stop: Master of Arts in Communication Studies at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. So, how did this east coast gal end up in Memphis? The love of my life moved out here for a job straight out of undergrad (we met at ODU), so after my second degree, I followed him out here. It wasn’t an easy adjustment at first. I was desperate to gain employment so I picked the first company that offered me a job. I soon found out that it wasn’t the job for me and took some time off to evaluate myself and what I wanted to do with my life.

I became involved in multiple organizations including the Junior League of Memphis and built a solid social circle of great friends who have continued to support my journey. Why Volunteer Odyssey? I volunteer on a regular basis with many different organizations because it fulfills a part of my soul. I wanted to seek a job that gives me a similar feeling. The non-profit sector it is for me! I love event planning and writing, so my dream job would be anything that allows me to flex those muscles.  Not only am I a protector of mankind, I’m also a loyal friend to animals. I would probably hoard a house of rescues if I wasn’t allergic to them!

If I could describe how I feel how about Volunteer Odyssey thus far, I would easily state: GRATEFUL! My Volunteer Week has not even begun yet, and already I have met and networked with so many genuinely wonderful people who have offered their help and guidance to make my job finding experience run seamless and full of opportunities that fit my needs. I have been overwhelmed with support and cannot wait to see what this next week of volunteering brings! Thank you for following my journey – I am very excited to share this experience with you!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in writing, event planning, or teaching. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or aesamsell@gmail.com.

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Habitat for Humanity: ReStore “Restoring for the soul”

I am making the sign that reads "BOOKS."
I am with Dee Dee and the pricing cart.

I am with Dee Dee and the pricing cart.

The Memphis ReStore is operated by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis. All proceeds from the ReStore benefit the programs of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis. The ReStore is a place where you can purchase gently used furniture, household appliances, blinds, books, clothes, cabinets and doors to name a few. Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit ecumenical Christian housing ministry that is dedicated to eliminating substandard housing in the city of Memphis and surrounding areas, while making decent housing for all people a matter of conscience and action. The organization works to build simple, quality and affordable homes in partnership with low-income families.

Pricing cart

Pricing cart

As I arrived at Memphis ReStore, I met Joe and Christina.  I was then told to sign-in and to put on a gorgeous orange vest so that customers would know that I am a volunteer.  This was no ordinary volunteer job.  Usually, I would be with a handful of volunteers but today they had about 20 high school students from the YMCA volunteering.  I am really passionate about working with high school students because I feel there can be more of a relational factor in helping them to be a confident person and to teach them about giving back to their community while respecting one another.  Joe gave us a tour of the facility and talked about what items they sell and also showed us where people can make donations.  Then he started assigning jobs.  I got paired with Dee Dee, who was a volunteer from YMCA.  It was our job to put the proper price tag on items. We looked at the price on the item and then find the correct tag to put on it.  We also made sure to put a description of the item on the tag and the date. Most items have a starting price but will eventually go down.  ReStore also offers specials on specific items.  Dee Dee and I definitely made a team effort on putting the price tags on the items. We would help each other by holding the tags down with tape.  It was great getting to know her and to see high school students giving back to our community.

I am making the sign that reads "BOOKS."

I am making the sign that reads “BOOKS.”

Joe then got his creative juices flowing and wanted me to make a sign to display where they keep their books.  He wanted me to get a door and then use cassette tapes to spell out the word “BOOKS.”  Joe’s goal was not only to make the store organized but to make it fun and inviting.  I learned that even though volunteering is a rewarding experience it can also be a creative.  Joe later sent me a picture showing me that they had hung up the sign for “BOOKS” and I have to say it looks pretty awesome.  I love knowing that I was able to help ReStore not only by volunteering but by being creative too.  If you want to help with Habitat for Humanity ReStore Memphis, they can always use great volunteers. It’s easy to donate to the ReStore, and all donations are tax-deductible. You can drop off your new or gently used household items at their Donation Center, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

 

The sign I made.

The sign I made.

Thank you for reading! Blair Hayes is searching for a job where she can merge her enthusiasm for our community with her education and experience; she can bring a positive attitude ministering to high school students, college-aged students and families.  If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen: A Thankful Heart

At lunch time, you can get two sandwiches, chips, and soup.
I am making cheese sandwiches. Yum!

I am making cheese sandwiches. Yum!

St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen is such a humbling experience.  When I arrived I met Martin, Ron, and Becky.  There was truly a sense of God’s presence with Christian music playing in the background and watching the other volunteers’ faces show just how much they love what they are doing.  Becky and I made cheese sandwiches, passed out breakfast and lunch to the homeless and even sorted some cans. A volunteer’s job is to prep the food, interact with others by serving the food and clean up. She really wanted to make sure that I got the full experience of what it means to volunteer at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen and for that I am truly grateful.

I am serving lunch to the homeless.

I am serving lunch to the homeless.

As I was passing out the food for the homeless, I got this overwhelming sense of joy but did not know if I wanted to cry, laugh, or smile.  When I asked the homeless how they were doing, most replied, “I am blessed.”  We all should take a lesson from the homeless.  In today’s society, we can get caught up in the materialism and idolism of thinking we need the next new electronic, wanting to be a different person, or idolizing “famous” people.  I am guilty of this and it is a daily struggle.  But that is when I have to stop and remind myself to be content and thankful for what I have.  God gives me everything I need, and that goes without saying “I am blessed.”

Sorting through cans.

Sorting through cans.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church Soup Kitchen has been operating continuously since 1870. Six days a week they serve our community’s poor, homeless and less fortunate. They average more than 300 meals serving a day – 91,000 in 2012. They can provide two meals a day to a precious child of God with your support of time, talent and treasure and prayers. Volunteers are needed Monday thru Friday from 7:15 AM to 10:00 AM. If you are interested in becoming a Soup Kitchen Volunteer, we know you will find it to be a rewarding ministry and have fun along the way! If interested, please call Ron at 901-527-5350.

At lunch time, you can get two sandwiches, chips, and soup.

At lunch time, you can get two sandwiches, chips, and soup.

Thank you for reading! Blair Hayes is searching for a job where she can merge her enthusiasm for our community with her education and experience; she can bring a positive attitude ministering to high school students, college-aged students and families.  If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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World Relief: A Whole New World

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World Relief Memphis is located at Union Avenue Baptist Church, which is where I met Kate Foster.  Kate is the Volunteer Coordinator/Church Mobilizer.  She sat down with me and explained what World Relief is and what their mission is. Their mission is to help refugees that have fled his or her homeland because of persecution or well-founded fear of persecution through race, religious beliefs, social groups, nationality or political opinion.  World Relief has only been in Memphis since August 2012. Their main goals are to help churches rediscover the Biblical roots of Christian hospitality – welcoming the stranger and working with refugees as the replant their lives in the United States.  World Relief offers a number of resources including: cultural orientation, arrange housing, furniture, household supplies, enroll clients in government services, counseling, medical, English referrals, and employment assistance.  While I was at their office, I helped with the volunteer process by making phone calls to references for people who want to volunteer for World Relief.  Volunteers share what they have learned from years of experience living in the United States – the English language, how to buy groceries or fill out paperwork in a doctor’s office, and the ins and outs of American culture.

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This was definitely a whole new world. I was in my car on the way to pick up an Iraqi couple to take them to their doctor’s appointment.  I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous with a million questions going through my head for example. Will I be able to understand them? Will they be able to understand me? What will it be like sitting at the doctor’s office with them?  Once I arrived at their place, I was greeted with pleasant smiles and they introduced themselves.  Their names are Tariq(pronounced tar-ak) and Alyaa(pronounced all-lia).  I was surprised within a few seconds I had a calming sense that even though we didn’t really understand each other everything was going to be just fine.  After the doctor’s appointment, Tariq and Alyaa had big smiles on their faces and said thank you a million times, I knew then that I was truly blessed to have this experience through World Relief Memphis because even though there was a language barrier, God’s love can be seen in all languages.

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Matthew 25:35 says, “I was a stranger and you invited me in.”  As humans, we should always be willing to help each other no matter what the situation is.  I can’t imagine having to move to a different country away from my family and friends with a language barrier – not to mention – a whole new culture to learn. I am thankful for World Relief because even though we might speak a different language, we are all God’s children.  We are here to serve others but especially to serve God above all.  If you want to help World Relief, they are having a Spring Cleaning Donations Drive March 25-27.  Items they are asking for are: sofas, chairs, rugs, kitchen tables, baby items, and vacuum cleaners to name a few.  For more information please go to their website www.worldreliefmemphis.org/springcleaning.

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Thank you for reading! Blair Hayes is searching for a job where she can merge her enthusiasm for our community with her education and experience; she can bring a positive attitude ministering to high school students, college-aged students and families.  If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County: A dog gone time!

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“Woof, woof,” and “meow, meow” is what you hear when you are at the Humane Society.  Those are sounds of “please find me a nice home to go to” – in animal speak of course.  I love being around animals.  I truly believe the saying, “a dog is a man’s best friend,” at times.  Animals can bring a calming presence into someone’s life.  Just simply petting a dog or cat can reduce a person’s stress level.  My mom use to say she liked our dog best because the dog didn’t talk back and loved her unconditionally.   If you are looking to adopt a dog or cat the Humane Society is the place to go.  The Humane Society not only offers adoptions, they also take in dogs and cats that have been injured or abused.  By taking in animals that have been injured or abused, they can help rehabilitate them and make them healthy so that they can be adoption ready.  Another service they offer is called Project Stop which is only offered to people who are on government assistance that have a pet that needs to be spayed or neutered.

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At the Humane Society, I got to meet with Katie.  She showed me around the facility and told me what goes on in each area.  While I was there, I got to see where the volunteers take the dogs out on a leash and then play with them in fenced-in areas.  To help Katie with the adoption process for dogs, each dog has to have a great bio so that people can adopt them.  I got to meet some of the dogs and learn their personalities by watching them play, run around, chase after the ball, and give them lots of love.  I also got to meet Matt who talked to me about the Project Stop.  He had me check voicemails and return calls to make sure that people wanted their dog or cat spayed or neutered.

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These task may seem small but, every little bit of help is always greatly appreciated.  Organizations like the Humane Society could always use the help; it just means making that effort to make a difference. If you need a lovable creature in your life, go and adopt today.  Not only will it be life changing for the dog or cat, this experience will be life changing for you, too.

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Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job where I can merge my enthusiasm for our community, my compassionate nature and desire to make a difference.  With my education and experience, I want to bring a positive attitude ministering to high school students, college-aged students and families. . If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or bhayes686@gmail.com
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Refugee Empowerment Program: Educating*Encouraging*Equipping

REP educating*encouraging*equipping

 

REP educating*encouraging*equipping

REP educating*encouraging*equipping

I was so happy to know that I was getting to go to REP because I love working with kids.  I’m searching for a job where I can merge my enthusiasm for our community, my compassionate nature and desire to make a difference.  With my education and experience, I want to bring a positive attitude ministering to high school students, college-aged students and families. REP is a non-profit that helps refugee students through an after school program.  They help provide them with homework assistance to kids ages five to sixteen.  I worked in an after school program for five years and I helped students with their homework and played games.  By being at REP, it brought back memories of when I used to work in an after school program at St. Louis School.  REP’s vision is truly inspiring by wanting to empower the refugee community by encouraging, educating, and equipping individual refugees, refugee families, and the refugee community. Through REP’s after school programs, summer programs, adult education program, character education classes for adolescents, college preparation classes, pre-GED classes for adults, a women’s leadership program, and Bible studies for youth and adults, refugees in Memphis have greater opportunities to become self-sufficient and independent in their new lives. Ultimately, REP seeks to become an organization run by refugees serving other refugees. A great example of refugees serving refugees at REP is having the older students help tutor the younger students.

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When I arrived, I met Jules who is a refugee himself and I met Ashley who is from Memphis.  They both have been working for REP for a while.  Before the students arrived, Ashley talked to me about what REP is all about and what the students’ needs are.  Their main goal is to focus on education.  Once the students started arriving, I was told to sit at the end of the table.  Before I knew it, students started coming up to me wanting help with their homework.  I helped students of all ages with English, math, reading, writing, and an online driving class.  As I was helping students with their homework, I felt like I needed a refresher course. I had to read the directions a few times to make sure I was telling them the right thing.  But once I figured it out, I was good to go.  It was very rewarding seeing their faces when they got the question right. I know I was making a difference through the satisfaction of their comprehension.  The key is to make sure they can figure out the question on their own and if they need help they can ask then.  The hardest part was keeping them to focus on their homework because all they wanted to do was play.  A great example of not wanting to focus on their homework was when I was helping a boy with reading he kept looking at all the girls playing; oh boy do they start young. But in the end it was worth it knowing they are getting a great education which is the goal.

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REP can always use volunteers.  I would recommend this type of volunteering to any high school student, college student or adults.  This is an easy way to give back to the community.  Volunteers are needed between 3pm and 7pm; you can go for an hour or two or stay for the whole time.  Whether or not you need service hours or looking to do something rewarding in life, REP is the place for you.  I am very thankful I got an opportunity to go to REP; I hope I can get more opportunities to volunteer here in the future.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as where I can merge my enthusiasm for our community, my compassionate nature and desire to make a difference.  With my education and experience, I want to bring a positive attitude ministering to high school students, college-aged students and families If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or bhayes686@gmail.com

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SRVS: A special encounter

Today was my first day to go on my Volunteer Odyssey.  I was sent to SRVS which is pronounced as “serves.”  This non-profit is where adults with disabilities can come learn new tasks through sensory play, art, music, dance, reading, math, and apartment living to even cooking in the kitchen.  When I first learned that I would be going to SRVS, I was really nervous but excited.  Even though I am an adult, I have never felt comfortable working with people with disabilities.  I would never know what to say and I would have trouble figuring out what they are trying to say to me. But all that changed today when I went to SRVS.  I just made sure I went in with a positive attitude and talk to them the way you and I would talk.

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When I arrived at SRVS, I was introduced to Allison Renner who gave me a tour of the facility and she discussed what the clients get to do in each area.  I felt like I was at a really cool school with fun activities to keep me busy all day long.  Then I was placed in a room where I helped the clients with sensory play.  Even though I was still a little nervous, I finally felt at ease once I sat down and started working with Rosalyn and Denitia.  Rosalyn was working on tracing her letters and repeating what each letter was.  Denitia was working on numbers by looking at the number and putting the right amount of sticks in each slot.  I was also introduced to Debby who is a teacher that floats from room to room.  She talked to me about the sensory play that they teach to each client.  A simple task, for example, taking marbles out of one bucket and placing those marbles into another bucket would be easy for a person like you and me, but for people with developmental disabilities, it could take a year to learn.  I could see the excitement in their faces once they got that task accomplished and in Debby’s face on getting to witness their accomplishments.  I believe it is rewarding when you can simply see the smile on their faces light up.  After sensory play, we got a break and watched The Price is Right, which they really love to watch them spin the wheel.  They love to pretend that they are spinning the wheel and call out the numbers for the right price.  Before I knew it, it was time to go to lunch.  Overall, I believed I learn more from them than they did from me. Just because they have a disability does not mean they are incapable of doing a simple task, they just need the extra guidance to help keep them be independent. I really give credit to the staff because it takes a lot of time and patience to work with their clients on day to day tasks.  Once you take the time to be positive and get out of your comfort zone anything is possible.

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I am truly blessed to know that Memphis SRVS “serves” people no matter what the disability.  This is a very happy place to go to if you ever get the opportunity.  Before coming to SRVS, when I would be out in public and see a person with a disability I would try to avoid them.  I know that was wrong.  We are all God’s children and deserved to be loved and treated with respect.  Just because a person might be different does not mean we should treat them different.  As it says in the Bible, “Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above.”  Bottom line; do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.  You never know what might be in store for you.

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Prelude: Blair Hayes

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Hello my name is Blair Hayes.  I have lived in Memphis for most of my life and I am very proud to live in such a wonderful city surrounded by family and friends.  I graduated for the University of Memphis with a degree in Child Development.  I have always been passionate about working with kids and serving others.  I have had opportunities to serve others through mission trips and being a youth leader for six years ministering to high school students.  I am at that point of my life where I know I want to do more to help others not always on a volunteer basis but hopefully on a job basis.  When I read an article about Volunteer Odyssey, I was thrilled and knew this was the type of opportunity I had been searching for.

I am very excited to get to go to 7 different nonprofits that I am not familiar with.  From this experience with Volunteer Odyssey, I hope to have a better understanding of non-profits in Memphis and the positive benefits that I can share with others. I will be blogging daily about my experience with Volunteer Odyssey. I hope you will follow me on this adventure.  Thank you for your support through this unique and exciting adventure.  Volunteer Odyssey is one of the first of its kind to give people this opportunity to become more acquainted with the non-profit world.