Early in the fall semester, UIW faculty organize a half-day of service learning to help indoctrinate the freshmen to the university's mission of education and service.Faculty members organize their classes or student organizations to work together at an assigned nonprofit agency for the day. The agency determines the tasks to be completed during the morning so the students can get to work upon arrival. The students get breakfast, lunch and four hours of community service on their transcript. We had students assisting Family Violence Prevention Services and helping the residents of Incarnate Word Retirement Center.
The majority of the honors students worked at Inner City Development, which just celebrated 40 years of service to the near West Side neighborhood. Inner City is a completely volunteer-run organization, providing emergency food and clothing year-round for more than 70,000 families and a daily summer recreation and free lunch program for children. But first, we had to get there from campus.
It was raining that day so we braved the elements to ride public transportation to get there. Our trip reflected that of many people without personal transportion who must ride the bus to work. We waited ten minutes for the bus and rode another 40 minutes to the facility. Steady conversation made the trip seem shorter.
Upon arrival Co-Director Patti Radle (in purple) told us about the mission (To Lift the Dignity of the People Served) and the procedures of Inner City Development. After being there so long, they have had time to see many people improve their lives through increased confidence in their own worth. We learned how our tasks would support Inner City's services providing food, clothing and recreational activities to the neighborhood. Split into four teams, we went off to work!
Andrew, Elyssa, Auriel and Mikaela spent the morning pulling out all the art supplies, organizing them and then putting them in newly labeled containers. The center offers art classes as one of many recreational activities to the families in the area.
As you see by Mikaela's "Vanna" emulation, they were quite proud of what they accomplished.
Another group pulled all the donated clothes out of the big storage closet, sorted, sized, labeled and replaced them in the appropriate storage bins. Any clothing with spots or tears were set aside for the rag bag. Remember the mission is to lift the dignity of those who come for assistance. Alyssa and Mollimichele went through the men's clothing and Shannon sorted the children's apparel. We found some great Halloween costumes in there as well!
Arielle and Louie spent their time restocking the food given to the homeless who stop by throughout the week. They made about 70 sandwiches, then sorted the food in the pantry and organized their storage on the shelves. They put together a couple of sacks of food for people who came through and were disappointed that they weren't able to put more in than they did. But the food is just to help tide people over the crisis period while they get back on their feet. Each family is allowed to receive food assistance just two times each year.
The messiest job was clearing and cleaning out the storage shed. The rain had created a muddy backdrop and the rain kept misting all morning. But our fearless students-- Gerry, Justyn and Castro--put on their gloves and did the job. The shed needed big help too: The biggest surprise was finding a "giant, petrified" rat underneath all the paraphernalia!
We walked through the neighborhood and passed by some fantastic murals on our way to the bus stop. It was still raining, but we didn't care by this time.We were feeling good about what we accomplished and who we assisted. Gerry was so inspired that he appropriated the Superman cape from the rag pile for the trip back. The real Supermen and women are the the volunteers who have kept Inner City Development going all these years; it's made a positive difference for the neighborhood.