Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
For mysterious and unknown reasons, I've got "Christmas is Coming" in my head today. Do you know that one? It's old as the hills and often sung in a round...
Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man's hat
If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do
If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you!
And as irritating as it is to get a song stuck in your head, the message of this one is pretty darn good. The fact of the matter is that every little bit helps when you're reaching out to those in need, but sometimes it's hard to remember that. The sum total of human suffering in the world is a pretty overwhelming thing. Heck, the sum total of human suffering in East Liberty can be a pretty overwhelming thing.
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your donation won't make a difference. What is $25 or $10 in the face of widespread hunger and homelessness?
The answer? A Lot. Those little gifts add up to big gifts, and even when they're small they make a difference. $25 will provide home-delivered meals to an elderly person for a week. $10 provides breakfast for ten men at the homeless shelter. It makes a difference.
One of our clients in the Safe Haven program appears every now and again in our fiscal office with a small cash donation. Often, it's a couple crumbled dollar bills and some change. They are tiny gifts offered with great love, and it brings a smile to my face every time I record them.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
One of the great things about being located in a city with so many colleges and universities (there are ten, in case you were curious) is that quite a few students from those institutions make their way to EECM.
Whether it's fraternities and sororities looking for service projects, campus groups hosting food drives, or human service projects for class, we regularly reap the benefits of having thousands of enthusiastic college and grad students roaming the city.
Most recently, EECM's Orr Center was fortunate to serve as a project site for two Occupational Therapy students from Chatham University. The students spent several weeks working with the clients and staff of the Orr Center, investigating the potential benefit to introducing structured activities into daily life at Orr.
The students conducted a needs assessment based on interviews with current guests and engaged groups of guests in a series of four activities, from collages that promoted self-awareness to a craft project where they all made stress balls.
At the end of the project, the students wrote up a comprehensive plan, based on their experiences, for how EECM might incorporate similar activities into regular operations at the Orr Center, with the help of volunteers.
It's a win-win situation. The students gain valuable experience in their field and we receive excellent insights!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
When Jane's* twin daughters were being Bat Mitzvahed, they decided that, for their service project, the family would bake brownies every week for EECM's Soup Kitchen for a year.
That was six years -- and about 18,000 brownies -- ago.
Jane's kids are now in college, but every Wednesday, you can count on her to appear at the Soup Kitchen with a tray of home-made brownies. The project has taken on a life of its own!
Jane says that after the year was up, she arrived with what was to be the last brownie delivery. But as luck would have it, several Soup Kitchen patrons were in the kitchen when she came in. They shared with Jane how much they loved the brownies and she thought "I can't stop now!"
And so the brownies continued. First with her kids. Now alone, or with her husband's help, Jane bakes brownies each week.
Jane works in the emergency room at a local hospital. A few months ago, she was treating a patient that she recognized from the our programs. They got to talking and she mentioned her brownie-baking. The man's eyes lit up and he said: "Oh! You're the brownie lady!"
Now Jane jokes -- "That's it! I'm making brownies forever! How can I stop?"
*Our Brownie Saint is a modest and attention-avoiding person. Jane isn't her real name. And no, all you brownie-lovers out there, I won't share her address, either. Those brownies are for the Soup Kitchen!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
"Joan Millar has been a volunteer with East End Cooperative Ministry (EECM) for more than 30 years and a board member for more than a decade. In addition to attending board meetings, she delivers Meals on Wheels, serves dinner at the men's emergency shelter, and spends a significant amount of time at the William and Mildred Orr Compassionate Care Center.
Joan was instrumental in founding the Orr Center, a place that provides shelter and non-medical respite care to needy individuals following discharge from the hospital. She was part of a small group of people who recognized a need to provide care to a fragile population -- elderly, homeless or otherwise vulnerable people who cannot return to their prior living arrangements after a hospital stay. The Orr Center began as an independent nonprofit organization, of which Joan was the acting executive director. After ten years of operation, the center merged with EECM under the direction of Joan and the board. Today, the Orr Center provides a safe place to heal for nearly 100 men and women every year."
Congratulations, Joan! We love you!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
One thing I love about my job -- every day is different. Yesterday, for example, I got to leave my office for a bit to go on a turkey run.
This activity did not actually involve running or making gobbling sounds, but rather entailed retrieving 24 surplus turkeys from Whole Foods. In the aftermath of Thanksgiving, Whole Foods found themselves with a number of unsold fresh turkeys that needed a home. We were happy to oblige.
As with all the food that comes from Whole Foods, these birds were impressive. Organic. Free-range. Happy. HUGE. The biggest turkey I saw weighed 30 pounds. Yowza.
We immediately set to work roasting several of the birds, tucked a few more in the freezer, and distributed the remaining turkeys at the Food Pantry. I hear rumors that turkey salad will feature prominently on the Soup Kitchen menu in the weeks ahead. Yum!