in Community, and BEYOND

Other than work, which has been slow to start, but a lot of learning, my Coms and I have spent time getting our house to feel like OUR home and hanging out together. Last night a few of us went to the Church Brew Works Restaurant/Pub which is a renovated church turned bar. It was a beautiful restaurant and we all enjoyed “church themed” house brews. Thursday we had our first Francis Meeting, which is a biweekly meeting with have with our Program Director to talk about upcoming dates, business items in need and how our lives are going in regards to community living, simplicity, spirituality and service. My Mil-Com Martha put it well that “we dont have jobs, we have a lifestyle.” This unique quality is what drew me to Change A Heart because of the commitment of spirituality and community.  Living in community has been a lot of fun, we make meals together, talk about our days and enjoy each others’ company. On weekends we try to adventure with our Ed-Coms, like today most of us went to Dream Cream! Dream Cream is an ice cream shop that allows “dream makers” to fund raise the profits from their custom made ice creams. Today we went to support a Change A Heart alum and her cause! Though it has been fairly easy thus far, we have all embraced the knowledge that challenges will arise and it is up to us to work towards a happy and open community life together. 

This week has been busy, inspiring, challenging and eye opening coming from all directions. I feel extremely blessed to be a part of OSN and Change A Heart. I have been extremely lucky in my placement thus far in that it is direct service with a population I am extremely passionate about. Everyone I have met that is involved with OSN has blown me away in regards to their passion for social justice and love for those they serve. I am especially moved by TLA and the OSN office because of their focus on outreach. With this outreach, they are able to connect with people in dire need of basic safety and security in their resources of health care and social services. I have been continually struck by the raw dedication of OSN to those in need, putting their clients, residents and patients first. I am humbled by the staff’s genuine connection with the people we serve and their drive to empower each individual towards a better life. 

I have struggled to find time to spend reflecting on my experiences and my connection to my faith. It is easy to get wrapped up in all that is going on, but I hope to make more time for myself in this way as I move forward. My house would like to make more of an effort to reflect as a community beyond our nightly dinner discussions. 

A Little Bit about Work…

FIRST OF ALL – ROAD FOR HOPE IS HOMEEEE! I could not be prouder for the participants this year or more grateful for their leadership team, community and CM for making it another successful year. Shout out of all my dear friends who added another 130 to their repertoire!

My  first week of work has been unique to say the least. I began Tuesday, with which I mostly spent time talking with my supervisor about Operation Safety Net in general. In my down time, I got to know some of the residents of Trail Lanes Apartments. Trail Lanes will be my home base for the year. Trail Lanes is an aspect of OSN which provides permenant housing to those who need it most. Many of our residents have failed out of other shelter or recovery programs because of complexities such as medical noncompliance and dependence on substances. TLA is a “housing first” model which provides people a safe, secure place to . It is as simple as that. While living in TLA, residents have resources in case management (to help with income, job searches, social assistance, health care advocacy..you name it). In addition to the 16 units offered to people in need, the program does its best to house people wherever they can. Many of the single rooms or offices are filled with people living in temporary shelter. TLA is the most beautiful facility I have ever seen that serves people who are chronically homeless. It has a lovely feel to it, with well kept furniture, decorations and framed pictures of staff and residents all over the floor. OSN takes pride in this comfortable feel, providing dignity and respect to all those involved.

Almost every day I will be at a different facility during the week rotating from TLA, the OSN main office, the UPMC Mercy Family Health Center (clinic) and Wellspring Drop in Center. All are affiliated or directly a part of the OSN netowrk and are focused in health care and outreach. Some evenings I will spend doing walking rounds with Dr. Whithers the physician who started the OSN program. When in in the Clinic, I will be working with Dr. Whithers treating patients who may come in from street rounds or visiting residents upstairs in TLA.  I have had the pleasure of meeting him on a couple occasions and he has already given me a book to read! I will also be helping Kelli, the nurse at the home base of OSN with SWES, which are Severe Weather Emergency Shelters held in churches to provide shelter, food, clothing and health care whenever there is inclement weather (either in form of storms or cold temperatures).

 

Orientation and More!

My apologies for the delay, my Wifi connection is not the most reliable!

Needless to say a lot has happened since my last update about a week ago. The eleven of us spent Monday through Thursday in the Change A Heart orientation. Each day we discussed different the pillars of the program: simplicity, service, community and spirituality. Kelly and Galen (the wonderful people who run this program) had activities, reflections and experiences for us to connect with each of the topics ranging from socially responsible grocery shopping to serving with a faith based ministry of homeless outreach. This homeless outreach began through a church with its parishioners and has developed into a major operation spearheaded by one very meticulous and passionate woman living in Pittsburgh. Our whole group was able to experience her Monday Night routine as we packed up several cars at her house, where the operation is based out of her basement, and cruise down to the Boulevard of Allies. Boulevard of Allies is simply a street downtown where the line forms for the services this ministry provides. Though I can’t accurately estimate the number of people we served that night, our whole crew plus the regulars were out there from 10:30pm to 1:30am. The preparation for this line is an all week process and begins at about 7:00 at the house. Women from the nearby parish made sandwiches for all those in line. This ministry also provides additional groceries for those in housing, clothing, toiletries/towels, socks, shoes and household items. For all those Saint A’s people reading – its literally a little FCF every Monday! We all had a lot of fun meeting the other volunteers and the people who were waiting in line. There were all walks of life in the line, which exemplified the extent and variety of the need in this city we now call our own.

Thursday night the group separated and moved into the two different volunteer houses of Change A Heart. We are about a ten minute walk away from each other. Six girls live in Ed as we call it, and three boys, another girl and myself live in Mil. Our very first night was spent on our back porch, taking in the thunderstorm, this experience and each other. It was a long night of moving in, helping Ed move in then getting ourselves settled. I am sharing the attic with the other girl Com (community member). We each have small rooms but only one door separating us and the stairs leading up go into my corner. Its quirky and homey feeling. We both look forward to making it our own little space.

Friday was spent on the road for me, literally. Myself and another one of my Coms needed to get a screen done for our job site, so we walked from Bloomfield (our neighborhood) to Oakland, which was about a half hour walk one way. When we got back from that morning adventure, one of my Mil Coms and I trekked about a half hour the other direction to go to Giant Eagle for our weekly groceries. It was a different experience knowing we had a limited budget, and I will admit I was nervous we would overspend. Theres nothing like going to the grocery store hungry! This Mil Com is a Change A Heart veteran and had no concern about our cartload being too much. In the end, he was right, and it all worked out of course! One of our other Mil-mates is a fabulous cook and thus our guiding light in this experience. Last night (Saturday) he made pulled chicken in the crockpot with pineapple, bbq sauce, red onion and some choice spices I do not recall. It was to die for, especially after our long day, which I will get to soon. After our Giant Eagle run, we took the bus home which was my first time riding the bus here in Pittsburgh! Happily back at Mil, we met up with one of our Coms and he and I set out on a Target run for household needs. This walk was the longest yet, at least 40 minutes one way! Though it was long, we had a lot of fun and the Target had an escalator just for the shopping carts! Wild. Long story short, any Road for Hope nostalgia was fulfilled by my hours of walking! The evening was spent rearranging our living room, us girls being the “vision” and the boys being the muscle.

Saturday, ten of us set out to get fingerprints done for Americorps and then to hit the Strip District for produce, people watching and as one of our Mil-Coms stated “to smell the cheeses.” We set out walking to Oakland but found ourselves in the middle of downtown after a wrong turn! Though we walked a little out of the way, we were right near the Strip District! This little adventure definitely tested us on our flexibility and trust in each other! As many of you know, I am all about the adventure of things, and I had heard that the Strip District was something to see. We went there for cheap produce and saw tons of stalls full of sweets, cheeses, meats, clothes..almost anything you can imagine. Unfortunately we were on a time crunch to make it to the fingerprinting place before it closed, so we only walked around a little. After taking a bus to Oakland and getting our prints done, two of our awesome Coms bought giant slurpees for us all to share. After about four hours of walking and bussing, we were overjoyed to see them coming slurpees and straws in hand!! Finally we headed back to good old Bloomfield, made dinner and joined Ed for a birthday celebration! Ed decorated the living room and made cupcakes for when she arrived home from a fundraiser event for her site! Ed and Mil spent the night wobbling, laughing and Feeling 22.

Day ONE!

I plan on making a more detailed post about orientation once it is over, but for now I will report a few things! There are eleven total Change A Heart members and I will be living with three boys and one other girl. The other six girls will be living together a few blocks away. We all had fun getting to know each other and today we will be focusing on our mission of service! 

 

Can’t wait to share more once I get some WIFI!

A Past Pilgrimage

A Past Pilgrimage

My most treasured and most powerful experience at Saint Anselm College was Road for Hope. This year’s walkers begin their journey about two weeks from today and I could not be more excited for them and more nostalgic for the most incredible 390 miles I could ask for. As it was the grassroots of my Anselmian career, I felt it deserved a big shout out as I move on into the next exciting endeavor in my life. I will be thinking of the walkers, the drivers, the community and the charities as they begin their journey on August 23rd. Keep these amazing kids and even more amazing charities in your hearts in those last few days of August. My love, support and admiration goes out to my adored repeaters, anxious first timers, EMTs, and the staff of Campus Ministry. I hope everyone has an eye opening, challenging, heart-filling, fun and safe trip!! My gratitude for the Roys, lakes, backpack hugs, Saint Charles, water break dance parties and miles-long heart to hearts will never falter. I could not be more thrilled to see RFH flourish for the last 15 years and hopefully 15 more to come!!