Local soup kitchen provides fulfilling experience
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2012 13:04
Looking back on this past semester, one of the most memorable moments has been my service learning project with the Fort Myers soup kitchen CCMI (Community Cooperative Ministries Incorporated). This journey began during my first week of classes which can often set the feeling of what the entire semester will feel like.
In my weekly Colloquium class, part of our requirements (along with keeping a journal, writing four papers and attending field trips) included performing 10 hours of service learning with a non-profit organization.
When my professor said that we could select a soup kitchen as our non-profit, my fears about the class ended because of a belief I kept in the back of my mind from Day 1: If I could find a great non-profit to work with a minimum of 10 hours, the entire class would work itself out.
I was introduced to this organization by their volunteer liaison who is a dear friend of mine and someone I consider a role model: Lisa Cronin. A few days before Christmas I went to visit her at CCMI to give her a present and a card and while I was there I met a mother of four who had been robbed and was still frightened by the incident. She only wanted Christmas for her children.
Lisa and I put together two bags of toys to give to this woman’s children and I knew from that moment that I helped make a difference in someone’s life and I knew I could do more with this organization if given the opportunity to do so and thankfully it came to me sooner than I thought.
Three hours every Friday from 9 a.m. to noon I volunteered at CCMI headquarters in Fort Myers where my duties ranged from folding and distributing clothes to preparing hygiene bags which contained soap, shampoo, toothpaste and a toothbrush for those who come early in the morning. I am also happy to report the food is absolutely delicious after enjoying a meal with the folks on my first day of volunteering.
When you are able to make a difference in a person’s life in a small way as I have done these past four months, you find that a lot of these people they can rise up confidently and go on to write a job resume, take a shower, go to a job interview and eventually become employed again. From that you find a piece of charity in your heart that many people don’t have, but I know every single person on earth desperately needs one.
I saw some people barely hanging on to life like there was a clock ticking in their heart that would collapse at any second. I can say after watching a man die before my eyes — to see someone that close to death right in front of you — is terrifying.
I wonder how many of these people were given the short end of the stick from Day 1 in life and why the word poverty is not used as much in discussion of our moral landscape as it was used in the 1930s with FDR’s New Deal or in the 1960s with LBJ’s War On Poverty.
I believe that if there is life after this one, we will be judged on that other side by how we treated the poor and afflicted on this earth. At times I think we ignore this issue due to our own mind having 50 million thoughts running at one time and perhaps our own greed we don’t want to admit to.
I also have met so many people with a distorted view on people living in poverty — they are lazy, unmotivated and that society should just turn their backs on them which makes me sad because you wonder how anyone can think this way.
The work that CCMI has been doing since 1984 has been a blessing for this community and we need more organizations like this taking a stand against poverty, homelessness, hunger and helping people re-enter the job market.
We can end all of those dangerous forces as a nation and as a world in my generation but it will ultimately be up to all of us to decide what kind of society we want to have: Are we going to let people drown or are we going to build the bridge so we don’t leave people behind?