Post written by Jesse A. Saperstein, College Experience Program Habilitation Liaison
A commitment to helping the community means just that. A commitment. This integrity was put into practice by the actions of the Community Service class this past Tuesday, February 9, 2016 when they visited the Westminster Church in downtown Albany as part of their commitment to helping the homeless population and members of the community who currently do not have enough resources. As you may recall from a recent blog entry, many of those who are struggling are hardworking individuals who are sadly not generating enough money to provide the bare necessities of life. One of these necessities is, of course…food.
The staff and students of the community service class woke up unusually early and reached a nearby bus stop by 8:20 AM in order to make it to the church located off of Lark Avenue. The food program is run by the FOCUS group in Albany that is a collection of four churches that collaborate for the greater good of the community. A representative of the church named Joe was kind enough to spend most of his morning talking to our students and sharing why he is passionate about this work. The food shortage is always in a state of crisis, according to Joe. His goal through this work is to put himself out of business because there will hopefully someday be no need for a food pantry or dining halls.
Our group displayed the value of teamwork as we piled into the Westminster Church after the throngs of people had their hot breakfast and we prepared for the next day’s serving. Half of the group and one staff member spent over an hour in the dining hall scrubbing down tables and chairs with a water-and-bleach solution. Two men and one staff member also walked to the parking lot to help bring in many bags of groceries into the church. The rest of our “crew” formed an assembly line in the kitchen preparing countless bags of sandwiches. We were left with the satisfaction of having saved the regular staff a lion’s share of labor so they may focus on other important tasks that will benefit their population
We are proud of our students for showing maturity, respect, and a great attitude while in the community. Most important, they were able to put personal feelings on a backburner while focusing on the greater good we were trying to do. Some of the women in the College Experience despised wearing hairnets because it makes them look like “old ladies.” (These opinions came to the surface when staff tried to take a photograph in the kitchen and two female students promptly ran away until it was over.) A freshman in our class later admitted that he was uncomfortable having to go into a church because of his atheism. It is moments like this when the staff has increased faith that our students will be able to handle the challenges of adulthood and having a job.
Following the experience on Thursday, February 11, 2016 we spent most of the class talking about our feelings about how things went the previousTuesday. Our students were positive about the experience as well as how enlightened they felt after having made such a difference in such a brief period of time. We quickly proceeded with our next task, which is coming up with ideas to put on the bulletin board housed in the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless Shelter where we toured one week ago on Tuesday, February 2.
During the course of an entire semester, our job as staff is to give our students as many opportunities as possible to experience life outside of campus and methods to beautify their community. Aside from helping to beautify their community, the students will also expand on job skills because volunteering is “Employment with a Safety Net” in my opinion.