Week 3, Day 2: Kevin Nowlin at SRVS

SRVS is one of those places when you walk in, you immediately feel the positive energy flowing.  While I was signing in at the front desk, and exchanging smiles with the employees passing by, I knew it was going to be a great day.  Cheryl greets me in the lobby and takes me on a tour of the facility.  The facility is under construction due to some flood damage that occurred a while back but it still looks great.  I see the modern classrooms that are adorned with current learning technology and I wave at many people I have never met before.  There is happiness and joy on the faces of EVERYONE I encounter.  Cheryl explains to me that SRVS has recently adopted a Montessori style curriculum to better engage and enrich the lives of their clients.  I think it’s … Continue reading

Week 3, Day 1: Kevin Nowlin at MIFA

MIFA is one of those longstanding beacons of goodness in the Memphis area. It would be difficult to find a Memphian who hasn’t at least heard the name and it’s almost assured that those Memphians have passed the “hard-to-miss” building where Peabody Ave wriggles into Vance Ave. The weather is cold and gray with some rather ominous clouds lurking just over the Mississippi, but I’m “running on Dunkin” so, the world is right. I walk in to meet a tall, gentle natured and well-spoken man named Rick. He is expecting me and proceeds to give me a quick orientation of the task at hand. Did you know that MIFA employees show up at 3am to start preparing hot lunches for the delicate citizens that do not have the ability, one way or the other, to get them? This is some … Continue reading

Week 3, Day 7: Kevin Nowlin at Dorothy Day of Hospitality

Today was my final day of the Volunteer Odyssey. This week has afforded opportunities that I never would have had otherwise, and I’m a better person on many levels for it. I reflect on the week as I drive over to the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality (DDHH) and I wonder how I will be serving when I get there. Sister Maureen greets me at the back door and says that she has been anticipating my arrival and invites me in. The very first room to the right, when you walk in through the back, is a large kitchen that has an expansive island-top and multi-eye gas burning range stove. This is where I figure I’ll be working even though I’m not entirely certain what my serving capacity entails. We continue on through this large and beautiful house to the … Continue reading

Week 2, Day 7: Rivers Powers at Dorothy Day House of Hospitality

Everyone knows that homelessness is a problem in America, but what most people don’t know is how the system works to combat the problem. Homeless shelters exist and are supported by governments, faith-based organizations, and non-governmental organizations. However, many shelters have very specific requirements for who they allow to reside in them. Some are gender specific, substance-free, number restricting (per family unit), time limited, or religiously affiliated, but very few allow families to remain intact or allow male children over the age of about 6. This is where the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality comes in: to fill this void and prevent families from being separated just because they are homeless. Dorothy Day House of Hospitality is a great place for families, who can’t get into a typical shelter, to stay while they are getting back on their feet. Some … Continue reading

Week 2, Day 6: Rivers Powers at Dirty Girl Run

I am a runner. I am what some would call a long distance runner, but for plenty of my running buddies, my half-marathon max distance is very short. I’ve participated in dozens of races, which require lots of training, but I’ve only been out to Shelby Farms at 6am 2 or 3 times for training runs, and it’s always been cold when I have. The only reason that rivals a training run for best reasons to be at Shelby Farms before the sun rises is to help out with a charity run. The Dirty Girl Run is a girls (of all ages) muddy 5K obstacle course whose proceeds benefit the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Maybe my favorite thing about the run series is that breast cancer survivors get to participate for free! It was a lot of fun to work … Continue reading

Week 2, Day 5: Rivers Powers at The Waffle Shop at Calvary Episcopal Church

I am an Episcopalian (though Calvary is not my parish) and have been living in Memphis for several years, so I knew about The Waffle Shop and the Lenten Preaching Series at Calvary Episcopal Church, but I had never been until it was chosen as part of my Volunteer Odyssey.  I went the day before I was scheduled to volunteer with a friend to have lunch and see how it all works.  Fortunately, he knew and introduced me to the woman in charge, so I didn’t have to go into it totally blind on Friday. The first thing I did as a volunteer was wait tables, something I didn’t think I would do again, but it’s really not bad at the Waffle Shop – not to be confused with the Waffle House – even though the house is packed non-stop … Continue reading

Week 2, Day 4: Rivers Powers at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Soup Kitchen

What will the Lord put on your heart to help the poor & homeless eat a nutritious meal? Access to healthy foods, regardless of someone’s socio-economic status is something I am passionate about, both personally and professionally.  St. Mary’s Catholic Church’s Soup Kitchen is at the top of the list in Memphis for tackling this issue on a daily basis.  They serve around 90,000 meals every year to the poor and hungry.  From 7:15 – 10:00am water, electricity for charging a cell phone, and food are provided to anyone who shows up. In addition to snacks, each person receives a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a deli meat sandwich, and 16 oz. of hot soup.  My tasks there were very basic – making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, breaking down a cooked chicken, dicing potatoes, and serving food. From a … Continue reading

Week 2, Day 3: Rivers Powers at Memphis Botanic Garden

I love living in the city, but at my heart, I’m a country girl and LOVE playing in the dirt.  Gardening is in my blood, so I was very happy to have drawn the Memphis Botanic Garden as one of my volunteer experiences. I’ve been to the Botanic Garden before for events and the farmers’ market, but it was very cool to be able to go back and work in the greenhouses.  The orchid house is simply gorgeous with so many varieties of beautiful tropical flowers, and many other plants are grown in the other houses.  My first project was to transplant young plants from their seeding pots to larger containers.  These plants are being grown for sale at the upcoming Memphis Area Master Gardener’s Spring Fling.  Some of the plants I didn’t know at all, but I easily identified … Continue reading

Week 2, Day 2: Rivers Powers at SRVS

When thinking of a facility for the developmentally disabled, most people probably imagine a cold, sterile institution made of cinder blocks where too many people are being watched over by a distant and harsh staff. SRVS is NOTHING like this. The facilities alone are top notch and massive; I was amazed by how large and high tech the main building was. Small groups of about 8 people gather with several instructors in different classrooms to work on a variety of skills – everything from reading and writing and learning the alphabet to domestic skills like ironing and meal preparation are taught to people highly eager to learn. I was very impressed so many people were using advanced technology like iPads and the SMART Board as learning tools. SRVS teaches using the Montessori method, which I didn’t know a whole lot … Continue reading

Week 2, Day 1: Rivers Powers at MIFA Meals on Wheels

In the 25 years or so of schooling I have, I have never thought about spending my Spring Break doing anything like Volunteer Odyssey, but after Day 1 at MIFA delivering food for Meals on Wheels, I’m very happy about my non-traditional vacation. I pass MIFA at least 10 times a week, and several of my classmates work there, but I’ve never spent much time learning about their programs. That has been an epic failure on my part. Meals on Wheels is one of the best volunteer opportunities I’ve been a part of in Memphis. I now know why so many people volunteer their time there on a regular basis: the team at MIFA is very friendly and well organized. Food is delivered in teams of two, and each team is given a methodical delivery schedule and two coolers – … Continue reading