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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Did you know it cost more than $2,000 for us to host Michael’s Odyssey Week? If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!

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Michael Garcia: Epilogue

My Volunteer Odyssey allowed me to get to know Memphis on a much better and deeper level than I did before my volunteer week in more ways than one. First, I now have a much better sense of the geography of Memphis. I just moved here at the beginning of March, although for the preceding 20 years I was an occasional visitor to the city. Finding my way to all the various volunteer organizations gave me a much more coherent idea of the layout of the city. I am now a lot less dependent on the sat-nav apps on my smart phone.

I also have a much better sense of the people and culture of Memphis. I met a lot of people from various backgrounds contributing to their city in different ways. I witnessed first-hand those that are struggling at the bottom of the financial barrel trying to scrape together a living. Seeing it with my own eyes makes an impression that cannot be reproduced from reading about it in articles or watching it on the news or seeing it through any other means. On some level I already knew this, but I learned that people do not necessarily become poor and homeless because they are lazy and do not want to work. There are many contributing factors that can lead to dire circumstances, and many of them are often beyond the control of the impacted individuals.

Working with the poor and homeless did not give me a more pessimistic outlook on life in general or particularly here in Memphis. On the contrary, I was reassured by the number of people out there trying to help others, whether by traditional means such as soup kitchens, or more innovative methods like mobile food markets. I saw that there is plenty of room for enterprising individuals with new ideas for ways to help people and revitalize the economy. I am definitely interested in returning to some of the places I worked with during my Volunteer Odyssey week, especially SRVS, Green Machine and Indie Memphis. Although I did not go there as part of my Volunteer Odyssey, I am also thinking about volunteering at the National Ornamental Metal Museum. Of all the non-academic institutions in Memphis, the Metal Museum seems to be the best fit for my experience, skills, and interests.

Although I am still seeking an academic post, I have expanded my job search to include working in the non-profit scene. Academic posts are hard to come by, and I think the right non-profit would and could provide me with the job-satisfaction that I am looking for. I have sat down over coffee with someone who knows the non-profit scene in Memphis inside and out, and he provided me with some good leads to pursue.

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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Did you know it cost more than $2,000 for us to host Ann-Katherine’s Odyssey Week? If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!

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Week 12, Day 7: Michael Garcia at Dorothy Day House of Hospitality

Michael Garcia at the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality.

My final assignment for my Volunteer Odyssey was to visit the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality, a shelter for homeless families located on Poplar Ave. At the house, I met Sister Maureen, the executive director of the Dorothy Day House, along with some members of the families currently residing there. We had coffee and delicious lemon cake while Sister Maureen told me all about the shelter.

When families become homeless they often get split up, with different members going to different shelters. Some shelters will only take adult men while others take only women, adults and children. Boys who are not yet adults are often left with nowhere to go. The Dorothy Day House was founded with the purpose of keeping homeless families intact while they get back on their feet.

The shelter is named for Dorothy Day, who during the Great Depression, founded the Catholic Worker Movement, a volunteer organization which served the poor and homeless. There are many Dorothy Day Houses in the US and abroad, but they are unaffiliated and independent of each other, each serving its own community as best it can. The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality here in Memphis acquired its house in 2004, and after extensive renovation opened in 2006. They have plans of expanding and opening more houses here in Memphis.

The shelter does not receive any funding from the City or any religious organization. They depend entirely on private donations. Sister Maureen explained to me that this allows them to be free from any externally imposed restrictions about who they can give shelter to and how long they are allowed to stay.

The Dorothy Day House has the capacity to house three families at a time. Every family goes through a screening process to determine if they can be best helped by the Dorothy Day House and if they would get along well with the other families living there. If they are accepted, the staff of the Dorothy Day House work with the families to set goals to get them back into their own home. The families stay as long as they need to as long as they are working to meet their goals.

While visiting there I met Taylor, the father of one of the families. He recently found a job working at an upscale restaurant here in Memphis. His son, Justice, is a big fan of Spider-Man. I also met Caitlin, a teenager whom Sister Maureen described as a great influence on the other children living in the house. She always starts her homework immediately after arriving back from school, whereupon the other children gather around her at a table and do their homework.

After the coffee and cake, Sister Maureen gave me a tour of the ground floor. There is a large kitchen, a dining room, living room, and a playroom that doubles as a computer room, where the adults can go online and apply for jobs. On the tour, I was particularly interested in a picture of Dorothy Day that hangs above the fireplace in the dining room. It is done in the style of a medieval illuminated manuscript, which is why it caught my attention. The picture was donated to the shelter by someone who actually knew Dorothy Day, had opened several Dorothy Day shelters around the world, and had come to Memphis to help train the staff at the shelter here.

Michael Garcia at the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality.

Michael Garcia at the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality.

All the furniture in the Dorothy Day House was donated, and they have storage units full of more donated furniture and household goods. When families are able to move out of the Dorothy Day House and into their own home, they often receive furniture from the Dorothy Day House so that they won’t be moving into a bare house or apartment. The staff at the shelter continue their relationships with those families once they move out, to do all they can to ensure their success.

Donating furniture is only one way people can help out the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality. In addition to accepting financial contributions, the shelter is always looking for volunteers to help out with things like house maintenance and yard work, cooking meals, childcare, and assisting with fundraisers. They are also very flexible regarding volunteers’ ability to contribute. I let Sister Maureen know that I am interested in helping tutor residents.

Driving home from the shelter, I realized that my Volunteer Odyssey week was now over. Of course that doesn’t mean my volunteering is over. I definitely intend to return to the places I’ve been blogging about this past week.

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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If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on https://www.facebook.com/VolunteerOdysseyand Twitter!

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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

My profile pages:
LinkedIn
Academia.edu

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If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!

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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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If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!

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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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If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on https://www.facebook.com/VolunteerOdysseyand Twitter!

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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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If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!

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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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If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on https://www.facebook.com/VolunteerOdysseyand Twitter!

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