Service-Learning Brings Awareness of Needs:
Homelessness and food insecurity are common problems in communities across the nation and throughout the world. It is easier to look the other way and not confront the issues until you realize that they are also a common problem in your own community. Sharri Olsen, a student in the Accounting Program, and Bailey Matthews, in the Paralegal Program at Globe University-Eau Claire became more aware of homeless issues and the needs in our community through their Service-Learning projects.
Identifying the Needs of the Homeless Population:
Sharri Olsen chose Cafe 420 as her community partner. Sharri began her exploration of the need in the community by interviewing Russ Atter, the Director of Cafe 420 Ministries. The mission of Cafe 420 is to help those in need at the time of their need. The Cafe provides many services including counseling, fellowship, and faith-building events as well as a free cup of coffee to anyone in the community. Cafe 420 offers assistance to those struggling with substance abuse, sexual abuse, and help for those coming out of incarceration. Additionally the Cafe has a small food pantry, warm clothing, and blankets for their clients.
An Indirect Approach to Assisting the Homeless Population:
Sharri found that she would not be working directly with the citizens in need of the services. She chose this group “because they needed something that I had the skills to do”. She states, “This was a way for me to serve the disenfranchised in our community”. Sharri’s goal for the project was to create something valued and useful for the clients of Cafe 420. She states, “As many of their clients are homeless, Cafe 42 indicated they are in need of fleece blankets for them. I was excited to put my sewing skills to work making them some blankets. My project will provide some warmth for those who are homeless on our cold Wisconsin winter nights”.
Making a Difference Through Direct Service:
Bailey Matthews chose a project with the homeless because she “knew she wanted to do something that would make a difference in the Eau Claire community.” Her search led her to Hope Gospel Men’s and Women’s shelters. Bailey had a very surprising firsthand experience at the Women’s shelter where she went to prepare meals for the women there. She arrived at the site around 5:00 PM to begin making the meal. She was joined by two other women who guided her through the cooking process. The women did not tell her their stories, just their names. Bailey was not aware that these women were residents until later in the evening.
Service-Learning is More Than Just a Project:
Bailey made what she calls a “lifelong friend” that night. Bailey recalls, “She was the most helpful and friendly person I have ever met. She was so knowledgeable and wise that I thought for the first half hour that she was another volunteer”. Bailey enjoyed her experience so much that she wants to continue to cook for the women at the shelter. Bailey states, “Our homeless population has gone through a lot of disrespect and hard times. I believe that as a nation we need to pull together to help these men and women get back on their feet.” Bailey and others will continue to serve their community because of their exposure to a need in the community. That’s what a Service-Learning project can do!