Week 5, Day 4: Atina Rizk at the Church Health Center

I must have driven past the Church Health Center hundreds of times on my way to and from school. The word “health” makes it fit right into the backdrop of the Memphis Medical District, but the CHC uses the word in its broadest sense. They offer classes and facilities to people at a small cost based on family size and income level. The classes include yoga, pilates, diabetes management, smoking cessation, nutrition planning– the list goes on and on. I had the privilege of helping their nutritionist, Carolyn, prepare for her healthy cooking class.     Chef Carolyn teaches several classes a day to members of the CHC. This means lots of ingredients to wash and chop, many little bowls to fill with pre-measured ingredients (don’t we all secretly wish we could cook this way?), and eventually quite a few … Continue reading

Week 5, Day 3: Atina Rizk at Knowledge Quest

South Memphis comes on gradually as you drive. Broken glass here, a boarded up house there. It’s a neighborhood marred by evidence of neglect, that no one cares: chipped paint, litter, and overgrown weeds. And then you come across Knowledge Quest– there are murals, a church, a well-tended garden, a colorful playground, and what seems like hundreds of kids. You can tell that people care here. Knowledge Quest’s main site is off Walker Street, and there is so much need that they have expanded to two additional locations. There are three elementary schools full of children who need help, and rather than going home to empty houses and blaring televisions, they get after-school care at Knowledge Quest. The guiding principle behind Knowledge Quest is that kids deserve the chance to play and interact in a safe environment where no one … Continue reading

Week 5, Day 2: Atina Rizk at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Soup Kitchen and SRVS

Today I visited two non-profit organizations because, honestly, when forced to choose between worth-while causes, the simple answer is to choose both. Got up at the crack of 6:30 this morning to be at the St. Mary’s soup kitchen (can you tell I’m not a morning person?). When I got there at 7:15, Martin greeted me with a smile and put me straight to work making sandwiches. Martin is in charge of making the soup, and frankly I am impressed. It must be difficult to make such large vats of soup without scorching the bottom, stay organized enough to handle such a large number of volunteers, and act as the enforcer. This is what it is like to volunteer when the guests arrive: Two meals are served during the course of the morning. They consist of coffee and a pastry, … Continue reading

Week 5, Day 1: Atina Rizk at MIFA Meals on Wheels

MIFA is dear to my heart because like every other child in Memphis at Thanksgiving, I have dutifully brought cans of creamed corn and lima beans to school to “put the GIVE back in Thanksgiving, y’all.” Even in law school, there was one day where you could bribe the professor to skip you if you brought canned goods to donate to MIFA (watch out though, professors tend to just keep asking you questions until you have nothing left but to actually answer the darn question; just thinking about it makes my palms sweaty). Despite years of donations of food though, I have never donated my time at MIFA. This is what it is like: Upon my arrival at 9:30 am, I am instantly struck with how well organized and well prepared everyone is. There are about 32 routes for the … Continue reading

Prelude: Atina Rizk

Towards the end of my graduate school experience, there was a sudden and palpable sense of desperation as everyone began to look for a job. Not a summer job, not a seasonal job wrapping gifts, but an actual grownup job with benefits and career prospects and, gasp, a salary. I counted myself lucky because I got to bypass all of that, having been selected to be a direct commissionee into the Army JAG Corps. My primary goal in joining the Army is to help people, soldiers, who are going through some of the most challenging times of their lives as they defend and protect our country. Also, I would get a chance to do the same. What I did not realize is that, nothing happens quickly when the government is involved, so I have to wait. I have to wait … Continue reading

Epilogue: Kevin Nowlin

After Kevin had some time to reflect on his experience, we sat down to talk with him about what it was like. Here’s what he had to say: Volunteer Odyssey: Had you ever volunteered before for any of the non-profits that you went to during your Volunteer Odyssey week? Kevin: I volunteered with MIFA many, many moons ago. MIFA is such a wonderful organization and I was happy to deliver Meals on Wheels again. Volunteer Odyssey: Will you continue to volunteer for any of the organizations now that your week is over? Kevin: I would definitely love to return to all of them on a regular basis if time permits. I certainly want to honor the organizations that have given me so much inspiration over the past week by continuing to serve them. Volunteer Odyssey: What kind of reactions did … Continue reading

Epilogue: Rivers Powers

After Rivers had some time to reflect on her experience, we sat down to talk with her about what it was like. Here’s what she had to say: Volunteer Odyssey: Had you ever volunteered before for any of the non-profits that you went to during your Volunteer Odyssey week? Rivers: No, I hadn’t volunteered before at any of the non-profits of my Volunteer Odyssey, and some I hadn’t even heard of before I went there. Volunteer Odyssey: Will you continue to volunteer for any of the organizations now that your week is over? Rivers: Most definitely! Before I left several of the organizations, I filled out their volunteer forms, and I’m looking forward to returning to them and helping out in a more meaningful way than just a few hours on an isolated day! In fact, I’ve already been back … Continue reading

Week 3, Day 6 : Kevin Nowlin in the Heart of Memphis

6:00am, amid winter making its final stand, is a frigid, dark and lonely time to be walking the streets of downtown Memphis. I had this idea, albeit nothing new under the sun, to spend a weekend downtown with nothing in my pockets other than my ID. What do you do when you have absolutely nothing? Where do you sleep? How do you eat? What does that experience feel like? Fortunately, I had friends advise me this was not safe and there were other ways to understand what it means to be homeless. I didn’t want to be “homeless” for the sake of some witty and brave social experiment, but because my heart hurt for people who lived on the street and I needed to feel what they felt. This was almost a year ago but the idea never really left … Continue reading

Week 3, Day 5: Kevin Nowlin at Catholic Charities of West Tennessee

Ms. Gloria is a very precise person. She runs the food pantry at the Catholic Charities of West Tennessee (CCWTN) and it’s a very tight ship. CCWTN is a nutritional food source from single persons to families of 8. All of the food that comes to the food pantry from the Mid-South Food Bank, which supplies food to over 300 organizations in the Memphis area, is carefully inspected for current dates and such. Then all of the food is organized accordingly so that the freshest food goes out first. Every morning Ms. Gloria comes in and checks the refrigerator and freezer temperatures to make sure the food has been properly preserved overnight. Then she takes inventory of the canned and packaged food stuffs to see what needs to be put to use that day. It’s rare to see people who … Continue reading

Week 3, Day 3: Kevin Nowlin at Memphis Botanic Gardens

Polystichum achrostichoides. Say that 5 times as fast as you can. For the other 99% of us who have no clue how to decipher that conglomeration of letters, it simply means Christmas Fern. The Botanic Gardens (BG) is renowned for the rich and lush greenery that garnishes the land just off of Cherry Rd near Audobon Park. Being a big fan of gardening and all things botanical, naturally (pun intended), I was excited to give some of my time to a little “green thumbing.” My newfound partner in crime, John Cook, is with me again today. His experience at BG two weeks prior was so moving that he is now destined to become a farmer; or so he says. I kind of hope he does. We need more farmers. Maybe I’ll work as a hired hand on his farm someday. … Continue reading