After sitting in storage for about a week, it was time for the Hope Street donations to get where they needed to be.  Thus, the car was jammed full of shampoo, shaving cream, hair gel, and clothing and set out for its destination at Hope Street.  We arrived at Hope Street's headquarters in a Catholic Charities building andmet with Emily, a Hope Street Counselor.  We were given a tour and helped put away the donations, and then sat down to learn more about Hope Street's mission.  Emily told us about the amazingly adverse conditionsthe children at the shelter had been thrust into.  With parents unable or unwilling to care for them, these kids turned to drugs, prostitution, and other desperate actions in order to find a home.  What would I havdone in that situation?  Would I have had a choice?

It is often undersetimated the amount of teens who are affected by homelessness.  According to Emily, around 200-300 teens are turned away per quarter because of lack of room.  Thirty beds is not enough.  These terrible realities have inspired me to continue to do my part to solve the problem of homelessness.  Being in contact with the homeless and giving them aid, I have found that my role is much bigger than just a bystander.  With help, w can significantly impact the homeless. 
 
Pick Up 2 05/22/2010
 
 With the outstanding success of our initial drive, we were given yet another shock when another batch of emails came in asking if we were able to pick up more items.  Many people had only just learned about the drive either by word of mouth or a forwarded email.  We were excited to be able to gather even more items for Hope Street and proceeded to schedule more pickup times. 

Again by bike or walking, bags and boxes were collected and dropped off.  I had one grand idea to walk to a participating house and bring the donations back.  Three bags, a box, and a mile later, my arms are still sore.  Overall, it was another grand achievement.  I was again moved by the profundity of what had been achieved; many shoppers, on their way through the local Target or a nearby pharmacy, had a passing thought to pick up an extra tube of toothpaste or pack of deodorant, and as a result, thirty homeless teens would get the products they needed to help them live on their own. 
 
 
By this time you'd think we had seen it all at Loaves and Fishes, but on our fourth time serving meals, we were struck by the humanity and dignity of those in need. Again, dinner service started as usual, the rolls and various entrees served out to the guests.  But this time, every single guest said "thank you" and shared at least a couple kind words with us.  This is not to say that our previous encounters had been unpleasant, but it was remarkable how kind everyone acted.  That got me thinking about the cafeteria in my own school.  Do people treat the lunchladies with the same respect I was given?  Is everyone genuiinely thankful to be eating their personal pizza or giant pretzel?

I think we were acutely aware of the fact that the atmosphere in the Loaves and Fishes dining room was far more gracious and positive than those in our own lives.  It drove home the idea that we are all human, and all deserve a chance.  Another incredible aspect of Loaves and Fishes is the selflessness with which people give.  They provide meals for up to 250 out of the kindness of their own hearts, which is what makes their giving remarkable.  We met some of the organizers who plannes the meals and coordinated the dinners.  They took on a full-time job with no resentment or complaint.   During our final night with the Loaves and Fishes program, we learned the most powerful lesson of all: it is not what you give, but the attitude with which you give it.   
 
 
Our drive on Saturday was a success!  We each took a different set of houses and went to collect the donations.  We were able to find all of them (whew!) but getting the back to 'headquarters' was a problem.  Many boxes were large (especially the toothpaste ones) so we had a trip getting everything rounded up.  In the end, we had everything gathered at Liza's house and sat down to inspect our haul.  

Who would have thought that many people would have given so many items.  We got, no joke, over 500 tubes of toothpaste.  Probably more.  We also received tons of shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, and tooth brushes.  We even got a huge (HUGE!)  container of hair gel.  I don't think Liza, Morgan, and I combined could even use that much hair gel in a lifetime.  Liza had tons of fun organizing and taking 'artsy pics' of everything sprawled out on her living room floor.  We sorted them into piles according to type (hair,  facial, mouth, etc.) and put them into containers for Hope Street.  I hope these items go to people who need them, and that they help in giving others an opportunity to rise to their full potential.  W
 
 
At People Serving People, we found ourselves in an entirely new environment but with the same goal.  PSP is an organization in Minneapolis where the homeless are given food, shelter, and many other services.  There are early childhood care centers, tutoring help for children, and help for those seeking jobs.  For our volunteer shift, we helped clean rooms.  


In between guests, the rooms have to be cleaned.  While they are staying at PSP, the guests are expected to clean their own rooms.  If this does not happen, they are put on probation or sent out for a period of time.  We cleaned one room where this was the case.  


For each room, we had to scrub toilets, wipe windows, sweep, mop, scrub, and wipe.  Liza again proved her finesse with a mop, Morgan mastered the art of sink cleaning, and I got down and dirty in the shower.  Our first room was a success, but the second one was a bit less pleasing; we had to go back and fix it up a bit.  By the end we were efficient and thirsty.  Our volunteer coordinator graced us with some water and sent us on our way.  


It was incredible how effective she was.  She had the system down and could clean a room twice as fast as any of us.  PSP proved to be a great organization that does its job fully and competently.  
 
 
On the night of our third Loaves and Fishes experience, we were pretty sure we had it down.  We got to the church right on time, followed the signs to the basement, and donned the regular gloves, aprons, and (incredibly attractive) hair nets.  The pudding position was taken up by Sarah, and Liza and Morgan volunteered to run tables.  Immediately conversation sprung up between the church members and our group.  We discovered some mutual friends, and then dinner service started up.


Dinner service went well; no surprises and good company.  What struck us this time was the willingness and joy of the other volunteers.  They were talking, laughing, and being friendly to everyone.  We couldn't believe that these busy adults found time to serve and were joyous about it.  It was inspiring and reassuring to our entire group.  It showed us how much of a difference we could make.  
 
 
On our second night serving at Loaves and Fishes, we served up a whopping pile of pasta with marinara and cheese.  We had come early to put together napkins and cutlery (Sarah totally won the race) and set up the meals.  There was also a group of elementary hockey players who came to help out.  


During the meal, we joked and laughed with some of the guests, getting to know a few and appreciating their predicaments.  Afterwards, we picked up the room and got to mop.  Liza was a beast at mopping.  


for the first time, we started thinking about what the homeless did after coming to Loaves and Fishes  Did they have anywhere to stay?  Was there a shelter where they could go, any type of roof over their heads?  It made us realize just how much of a difference a place like Hope Street Shelter can do.  
 
 
We went to Loaves and Fishes in North Minneapolis.  It was very interesting to see the variety of people in need.  There were families, senior citizens, single parents, and teens.  We served a meal of "Chinese" to the guests, and gave out bread and other items to bring home.  They were grateful for the services done.  


In the beginning, we were somewhat intimidated, but as the night wore on we loosened up.  The soup was a hot commodity, and as they came back for seconds we began to socialize.  We found that the more we talked to them, the more we realized how nice and friendly they were.  They had been dealt some tough cards in life and were genuinely trying to do the best they could with what they had. 
 
First Post! 04/25/2010
 
In our blog, we will be able to give a more in-depth overview of each of our service days.  More to come!