Boise, Idaho

Idaho Foodbank

I had an opportunity to visit the Idaho Foodbank in Boise to see their operations. Within that massive warehouse, there’s a lot of magic going on. In addition to sorting donations, I also had a chance to learn about their innovative backpack program that helps fight child hunger in school kids. This was such a beautiful experience and I won’t soon forget it. Such a loving and dedicated group of people.Big thanks to Teena, Mike, and everybody else there!

More about Idaho Foodbank (from their website):

The Idaho Foodbank is an independent, donor-supported, nonprofit organization founded in 1984, and is the largest distributor of free food assistance in Idaho. From warehouses in Boise, Lewiston and Pocatello, the Foodbank has distributed more than 135 million pounds of food to Idaho families through a network of more than 230 community-based partners. These include rescue missions, church pantries, emergency shelters and community kitchens. The Foodbank also operates direct-service programs that promote healthy families and communities through good nutrition.

 

Idaho Foodbank on the web:
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Mobile, Alabama

The Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama

I had an opportunity to visit the Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama in Mobile with my friend Michelle. Public Relations Director Katie Emer gave us a tour of the facilities and explained the philosophy behind the organization. We then joined some of the kitchen staff to help prepare and serve dinner to those in need.

More about the Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama (from their website):

The Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama provides spiritual, social and emotional assistance for men, women and children who have lost the ability to cope with their problems and provide for themselves.
Our centers offer emergency shelter, job training and placement, social services and seasonal assistance for families in need.

We also provide work, group and individual therapy for men who are recovering from addictions. The physical and spiritual care that program participants receive prepares them to re-enter society and return to gainful employment. Many of those who have been rehabilitated are reunited with family and resume a normal life.

Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama on the web:
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Dahlonega, Georgia

TLC Humane Shelter

I joined my friend, author Delilah S. Dawson at the TLC Humane Society in Dahlonega, Georgia. We spent time with cats and dogs who needed a little human interaction. To be honest, it was nice, having been on the road for a bit, to run around outside with the dogs and to quasi-nap in the sun with the kittens.

More about the TLC Humane Society (from their website):

TLC Humane Society, legally recognized as Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Humane Society, was founded in 1977 and is Dahlonega’s only no-kill shelter. We are a licensed non-profit 501(c)(3) rescue organization and have both dogs and cats and, often times, puppies and kittens available for adoption, and all of them need to find a good home.

The shelter sits on 5.87 acres of beautiful property which includes a dog park, walking trail, small block house with 2 cat rooms, a kitten room and 3 dogs runs, plus a puppy palace with 6 dog runs and 16 large dog kennels.

TLC Humane Society is very active in the community, hosting adoption events almost every weekend on the beautiful Dahlonega Square and at many other locations nearby. In addition, we hold several activities and events throughout the year, such as the annual Bark in the Park Festival in the fall.

We do our best to save as many animals as we can, but that’s only possible with the help of our community and people like you. We are especially happy to find new volunteers who share out commitment for the animals of Lumpkin County and surrounding North Georgia area. Check out our Get Involved for more information on what you can do. A helping hand is always appreciated!

Denver Rescue Mission on the web:
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Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville Rescue Mission & YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter of Nashville and Middle Tennessee

I was lucky to have two opportunities to volunteer in Nashville. My friend Sara joined me for both. We were joined by Zack for the second of the two.

Sara and I began the day at the Nashville Rescue Mission where we worked in the kitchen helping to prepare lunch for the Friday afternoon guests. Though I am not exactly “skilled” in the culinary department, I managed to peel cucumbers, chop cucumbers and tomatoes, and take part in the orderly assembly line of putting together meals (big thanks to my new friend Jill K. who showed me the ropes).

It’s really an impressive operation to see everybody moving so fast and in unison and with a palpable sense of compassion. The Mission serves up to 2,000 meals per day. It also provides a whole host of opportunities and programs to help people get back on their feet. Here is an interview with Samuel Bolton, Director of Volunteer Services at the Mission.

Sara and I then joined Zack at the YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter of Nashville and Middle Tennessee where we were greeted by our YWCA representative Mary. We sorted and folded donated clothes that would be made available to the women and kids staying at the shelter as they begin their journeys to new lives.

More about the Nashville Rescue Mission (from their website):

Hope for Today is a hot meal for a hungry child. It is safe shelter for a single woman. It is case management for a homeless man. It is helping men and women in need prepare for employment.

At Nashville Rescue Mission, we address homelessness and hopelessness in a way that is transformational and Christ-centered. We believe in order for someone’s heart to be open to change, we must first meet his or her most basic and immediate needs.

Hope for Tomorrow is counseling for a man who is battling addiction. It is caring for a woman who has suffered abuse. It is giving a child a safe place to play while mom gets the help she needs. It is teaching men and women new skills that will equip them for a better future.

At Nashville Rescue Mission, we assess each individual’s situation and develop a plan specifically for them that will take them out of the situation they are now in and help them make plans for a better tomorrow. We believe God has a plan and a purpose for every person.

Hope for Eternity is our banner. It is teaching those we serve that this world is not our home, and where by the grace of God and through faith in Christ, each person may receive the gift of eternal life. It is sharing the love of Jesus Christ with each person who walks through our doors. It is providing radical hospitality to someone who has spent far too many nights sleeping under a bridge. It is giving glory and honor to our Lord and Savior in everything we do and say.

Nashville Rescue Mission on the web
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YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee on the web
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Vancouver, Washington

Red Cross of Clark County, WA

The Red Cross

Many years ago I was a fairly regular blood donor. For whatever reason I stopped going. Occasionally, I’d tell myself to go, but didn’t.

But I also know that donating blood is a pretty important and simple thing most of us can do. It takes less than an hour, the pain isn’t really significant, and someday it might be somebody close to us who desperately needs blood.

I scheduled an appointment with the Clark County (Washington) Red Cross, made the brief drive from Portland, OR to Vancouver, WA, and donated. It was as smooth and easy as I remember (and I got free cookies!).

More about the Red Cross (from their website):

Each day, thousands of people – people just like you – provide compassionate care to those in need. Our network of generous donors, volunteers and employees share a mission of preventing and relieving suffering, here at home and around the world.

We roll up our sleeves and donate time, money and blood. We learn or teach life-saving skills so our communities can be better prepared when the need arises. We do this every day because the Red Cross is needed – every day.

Here are some statistics from the Red Cross.

Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.

More than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day.

A total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S.

The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 pints.

The blood type most often requested by hospitals is Type O.

The blood used in an emergency is already on the shelves before the event occurs.

Sickle cell disease affects more than 70,000 people in the U.S. About 1,000 babies are born with the disease each year. Sickle cell patients can require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives.

More than 1.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer last year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.

A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.

Red Cross on the web:
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A Truth I’ve Learned (#1)

benleroybelocalWhile doing this project, I’ve had a few opportunities to check in with myself to see where I am and consider where I want to be. I don’t mean that strictly from a geographic perspective (though I would love to be somewhere not freezing, but that’s not my point right now), but more from a “ok, so you’re doing this, what are you learning, what do you want to learn?” approach.

Sometimes when you turn the microscope on yourself you find cracks and flaws you didn’t think existed or didn’t want to fully own. But I am confronting these things as honestly as I can as they arise. If I were to keep it to myself, it would simply be to try bettering myself. But I also want to share them with you, because I want to show that this is a truly human endeavor and I want you to know that if you’re dealing with similar issues, you aren’t alone.

The first time I called myself out on a shortcoming was when looking at volunteer opportunities I saw one to help elderly folks with shoveling their sidewalks and driveways. I might have creaky knees and wrists, buy I’m still pretty handy with a shovel. I kept reading for more details. It’s then that I noticed the neighborhood and thought to myself, “Oh, well, it’s kind of dangerous over there, I don’t think I want to do that.”

A few seconds later a voice in my head spoke up – “Why are you pledging to do volunteer work this year? You want to help, but only in nice environments where you’ll feel safe and in your comfort zone? Is that it?”

That resonated with me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was my full understanding that this bad neighborhood also happened to be a significantly economically disadvantaged neighborhood. You know, the kind of place that needs help because resources aren’t as readily available? Which, if I was going to hold myself accountable, made me sound a little selective in my compassion as it relates to faith vs. deeds.

Though I did not grow up in a religious household and I do not identify with any particular religious school of thought (I have taken many lessons, some of them the same, from various books both holy and secular), I have an affinity for the Book of James found in the New Testament.

The gist of it, for those not familiar, is that it’s all well and good to declare yourself compassionate and wanting to help, but if you don’t actually go and do something about it, then really you’re just talking.

The last few days, as a reminder to myself, I’ve written “James 2: 14-17” on my wrist.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself.

I pride myself on wanting to help wherever and however I can. In theory. In faith. This year will be a test. I hope that I will have a record of deeds by the end of the year to pass it. I invite you to call me out on it if you notice I seem to be doing softer things when it is clear there are other opportunities I’m missing.

Because we’re in this together. All of us. Even the people who aren’t reading. And the only way we’re going to end up in a better place is to be honest with ourselves and the world around us, and then do what we can to help.

Love not Fear,

b.

Providence, Rhode Island

I had to pick up a co-worker in Providence. After we left the airport, we drove around downtown Providence and Interstate exits to distribute backpacks filled with food, water, socks, toiletries, and warming items to those in need. It’s cold out there!

Brattleboro, VT

Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro, Vermont

My good friend Sara put me in touch with the Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro, Vermont. I met up with Robert, the Board President and he walked me through the organization’s goals–keeping kids fed, helping with school work, providing a safe environment, building community, and many other things. It’s so important that the kids who will lead this world into future are given the necessary resources to tackle the challenges.

Robert introduced me to the club’s Executive Director, Beth, whose dedication to the kids at the club is self-evident and contagious.

We gathered with the kids to discuss the importance of reading, how books can shape our view of the world and the people in it, and then everybody got a gift certificate to visit the local bookstore. The plan is for everybody to read their books and then have a pizza party to discuss what they’ve read.

More about Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro, Vermont (from their website):

In every community, boys and girls are left to find their own recreation and companionship in the streets. An increasing number of children are at home with no adult care or supervision. Young people need to know that someone cares about them.

Boys & Girls Clubs offer that and more. Club programs and services promote and enhance the development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence.

Boys & Girls Clubs are a safe place to learn and grow – all while having fun. They are truly The Positive Place For Kids.

The Boys & Girls Club provides a safe place for youth to learn and grow, develop ongoing relationships with caring adult professionals, engage in life-enhancing programs, character development experiences, and create hope and opportunity.

Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro, Vermont on the web:
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