Friday, September 30, 2011

What a Wonderful (and Small) World. . .

The head honcho at Loaves & Fishes is a Sister of Mercy, Sister Libby.  Since Aunt Suzanne is a nun with Holy Cross, I thought there would be little cross-over.  This week I met the founders' sister, a nun with Holy Cross, too!  She knew Aunt Suzanne!  I also exchanged voice mails with my Aunt Terri's niece, Alice.  And on another family note, my parents are planning to visit from October 12th-16th!!  I'm so excited to have family! 

The week has been pretty routine- no crazy fundraisers or carnivals.  The average day last month had 730 guests, and this month's average was 767.  Not a huge increase, but an increase nonetheless.

My lovely sister, Beth, reminded me that this blog doesn't have to be a diary of Friendship Park.  It can also be about me.  Due to the "routine-ness" of FP, I'm going to write a list of things I'm thankful for (in no particular order):

1. My bosses/co-workers.  (If ever I need protection/back-up, they're there.  I have had an overly friendly guest the past few weeks;  I handled the situation in the beginning, but Garren reminded him of my boundaries.)
2. My casa-mates and their willingness to communicate.  All things can be appropriately dealt with once communication is in play!
3. MY FAMILY!!  (Do I even need a reason?!)
4. Sacramento weather. (I'm not grateful for my farmer's tan, but grateful that it never rains!)
5. The Richards. (The two men that work at the warehouse in Loaves & Fishes are both named Richard.  They send us home with any supplies we need [shampoo, toilet paper, etc.] and give us plenty of food whenever we ask!)
6. Money. I know I have committed to "simple living," (and I am) but it hardly feels like it!  There is always plenty of food on the table, a roof over my head, and a warm bed to sleep in.  True, I'm not going to see the latest movies or buying the newest clothes, but somehow, everything works out alright!
7. Last but not least, GOD! I was recounting my story of picking JVC and the park to someone, and I couldn't believe how providential it all sounded.  I knew I was meant to be here, and God orchestrated it!  (So thanks Dude!)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Busy, Busy, Awesome-ly Busy

During the week I make little notes to myself about things that happened during the week that I want to publish on the blog.  As I was looking over them, I couldn't believe that some of this stuff only happened Monday! This week has been incredibly busy and I'm looking forward to just relaxing this weekend.  Here are the highlights:

Monday, I was made "Exucutive Director of the Shoe Department."  (I exchange shoes for the guests.)  Just this week, over 30 men needed shoes.  Because of our dwindling supply (only 3 pairs of gym or dress shoes and 2 pairs of sandals) I wasn't able to help most.  (Thankfully a donation of another 7 pairs came in today!)  Tuesday, Jim and Garren, the bosses, assigned the JVs (Krystal, Anne and I) tasks concerning the park duties.  We each have about 5 extra responsibilities (posting announcements, getting the volunteer schedule in order, buying soups, etc.).  I, personally, am really grateful to Jim and Garren that they trust us enough to take on extra responsibilities!

Wednesday was my casa-mate Kathleen's birthday!  (She works over at the school at Loaves & Fishes.)  We celebrated and hosted a party for a few of her co-workers until 10:30pm!  (Big deal for us because we like to be in bed by 10!)  She even had her favorite BBQ sauce flown in from St. Louis!

Thursday was my mom's birthday, a press conference at the park and the Women's Empowerment Gala.  Due to a lack of funding (or some other bureaucratic reason), Sacramento will not have an overflow shelter this winter.  That means all the people who sleep on the street every night, will have to do so in the winter months.  (Not only does Sacramento get cold, it also rains heavily and constantly during the winter months.)  The press conference was drawing attention to this, and general awareness of how awful the homeless population is being treated in Sacramento. 

The Gala was a much friendlier and fun!  Two of my casa-mates, Laura and Alice, work at Women's Empowerment (WE), an off-shoot non-profit from Loaves & Fishes.  WE offers classes for women to get their GED, job training, and computer skills. This wonderful, self-esteem building program has an annual party which our entire casa volunteered for.  Myself, along with Kathleen and Krystal, sold raffle tickets for the majority of the night.  By selling tickets, raffles, auction items, and general donations, WE raised over $110,000!! 

The greatest, and busiest, part of the week was today at Friendship Park, or "the park" as I call it, but it is also known as FP.  The park celebrated their 20th anniversary today.  (Loaves & Fishes has been around for 25 years, and they established FP 5 years later.) To celebrate this accomplishment, FP hosted a carnival!!  When the guests received their meal ticket, they were given 4 carnival tickets as well.  They could use these tickets at any booth they wanted: cotton candy, popcorn, snow cones, photo booth, balloon animals, or the dunk tank.  (We had a ton of guests use all four at the dunk tank! With each ticket they would receive three balls to try to hit the target and dunk whoever was in the tank: Garren, Jim, or a couple other green hats. Despite the many suggestions for me to get in the tank, I vehemently declined.)  It was the most fun, heart warming, awesome-est awesome day!  There were too many highlights to recall, and the pure joy of the guests was amazing to witness! 

Despite the hectic-ness of the week, I wouldn't have traded it for anything!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Like a Rolling Stone

There is no normal day at the park.  Yes, we (the green hats) perform typically the same duties, but we meet new people, do odd jobs, mix things up!  This week was a perfect example of that!

Nothing of deep importance happened Monday, so I’ll just skip that day, but the rest of the week was chocked full of new things!  Tuesday morning, I saw my first fist fight in the park.  I had heard about fights, even seen verbal fights, but I had never seen a full brawl before my eyes.  I was handing out forks at the breakfast line, when two people on the bridge (about 6 feet from me) started fighting.  (My bosses swooped in and stopped it immediately. It was shocking to see both of them in “mean” mode.)  

Also on Tuesday, a guest that I hand sugar packets to in the morning, left candy for me by name at the service counter.  Two things you need to know to put this story in context: one, I usually hand out sugar packets in the morning with the coffee because I hate working at the service center to hand out lunch tickets and shower tickets, and two I have had guests give me things before (a plastic watch and a Happy Meal toy), but I was with someone else at the time so they gave it to the group.  This guest, Tony, handed the candy bars to the service center worker and said, “This is for the Sugar Lady.”  (A lot of the guests call me “Sugar Lady” now.)

On Wednesday, I saw a man refilling his thermos with alcohol.  The park has 3 very strict rules:
1.      No drinking or drugs in the park.
2.      No violence or threat of violence
3.      No open radios (must have headphones)
Because I did not see him drink, he was not 86ed, but he still left the park.  The second milestone that happened on Wednesday was that I attended my first protest!  A few of the guests and administration have been trying to get a new program started called “Safe Ground.”  This would be a legal tent city with the same rules as the park.  (Right now, California does not allow this, and “campers” are constantly getting tickets from the police.  Beyond that, the shelters are overbooked, CA is strictly enforcing the “90 day maximum stay at a shelter” rule, and to “discourage” any homeless camping, public restrooms are being locked and water fountains are being shut off.) 
        (Krystal and I at the protest in our park uniforms.  Yes, I hate the hat.)

Thursday was our one month anniversary of working at Loaves and Fishes and we received our first earned paycheck!  (It is so nice to have more than $3 to your name!)  Besides me running out of sugar packets and having a near mob attack on me, Thursday was pretty slow and fun! (People are serious about their sugar!  I’m handing out about 6 packets for one mug!)  Sugar has returned, but it is no longer in the packet form.  My nickname is still safe though, because I’m the sugar monitor.  Some will try to pour sugar out of the cans into Ziploc baggies, which is not allowed.

Friday, today, was also fun.  Nothing horrific happened; the park got a new full-time worker, I monitored the street for awhile, an ice cream truck showed up, and I went warehouse shopping for the first time!  Charlie, a well-to-do volunteer buys out an ice cream truck twice a year, and everyone gets a free ice cream!  (I had a firecracker popsicle!)  The volunteer organizations (the JVs and the MVs) receive food boxes from the warehouse every few weeks (or every week if need be!)  These are food items that they don’t have enough of to serve in the dining room.  We got nutrisystem meals, couple cans of beef, chicken, and tomato sauce, two bags of beans, two loaves of bread, grits, Canadian bacon, a 48 package of hotdogs, and other goodies!  

Not much is happening this weekend.  Today is Mexican Independence day, so we are having some friends over to celebrate fiesta style!  Saturday, is the Tamale festival that a neighboring program (Clean and Sober) puts on.  I need to start cleaning, hanging streamers and making the chili con queso.  Toodles!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Just the Way You Are. . .

A four day work week might seem pretty easy, and it was.  Nothing much of significance happened at the park.  

At the end of the day, the green hats gather to go over 86es, highlights and other news. I thought this week I’d share a few.

-Only one fight on Tuesday. (I was not involved!)
-Other than that, no one was kicked out of the park this week!

-Michael, one of our more particularly colorful and sassy guests, gave a green hat an Easter bonnet.  He’s only shown another green hat affection once (in the form of a hug) in the 10+ years he has been coming here.
-Our men’s washhouse has been out of commission for over a week.  (We went to retile the shower’s over labor day weekend and found mold. A complete restoration has been happening.)  Showers plan to resume on Monday!!
-There has only been an average of 650 guests per day!

Other news:
-It has been hot this week (almost 100 degrees) and we are out of water bottles. One man passed out from the heat and dehydration. (I bring a water bottle to work and refill it at least 3 times.)
-Another of the guests did not wake up or move on Friday when we closed the park.  He was breathing; the paramedics were called. We have yet to hear anything.
-One of the guests said I was the whitest out of all the volunteers and yet I have a visible farmer’s tan.
-I was also told I have very nice skin, and I’ve had a huge pimple on my chin this week.  He was looking right at it when he told me of my “nice skin.”
-2 meth addicts told me a long, twisted story of a girl being kidnapped, raped, and murdered.  To follow up on their claims I googled “Oregon wood chipper death” for an additional 30 minutes.  I will not believe meth addicts.

At the casa:
This week has flown by.  (As you might have guessed from the fact that I did not post on Friday.)  On Monday was the BBQ at the Jesuit center were we talked with the other JV house and the brothers and Brothers.  (Little b for those who are not priests yet.)  They sent us home with tons of food!!  On Tuesday, our two support people came over and we set up personal talks with them.  On Wednesday, I felt woozy after talking with Becca and hearing of the kids having strep, so I took my temperature and had a 102 fever.  I think it was a sympathy fever. I took some ibuprofen and took a 2 hour nap, and it went down to 100. I then took a freezing shower and it returned to normal.  Like any other hard working Chicagoan, I went to work the next day. (My casa-mates were shocked at my “work ethic.” I looked at them like they were crazy.)

That's been pretty much it.  I plan on hanging out with new friends (casa-mates, Newman peeps, the other volunteer kids) for the rest of this weekend, and then work starts on Monday again!  It's almost routine by this point.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

Saturday in the Park (and the rest of Labor Day weekend!)

So this Labor Day weekend has been eventful, so I thought I'd share some pictures!  (I'm not big on pictures, so these have been stolen from my casa-mates!) 

I have a bunch of pictures to share (not just from this weekend) so I'm going to try to keep the writing short. 

Rundown of the weekend:
Friday: out with a few other volunteer kids in the area (Mercy Corps and ACE)
Saturday: watched a frisbee tournament at the Newman Center on Sac State campus, went to Chalk it Up as a casa
Sunday: farmer's market, went to Old Sacramento for Gold Rush Days and visited the Railroad museum, went across the Sacramento bridge, mass and dinner at Newman center, game night at Molly and Becca's. (They are two of the JVs from last year at Casa Iggy who stuck around)
Monday: nothing now, but some of us are planning on going to a nearby public pool, an autism awareness concert at the capitol building, mass and BBQ at the Jesuit community.

My casa-mates: Me, Tessa, Krystal, Alice, Anne, Laura, Kathleen
Casa Iggy!!

Justin (an ACE kid, who went to school with Kathleen!)

Chalk it up!

The outside squares had to be paid for, but the small sidewalk squares inside the park were free to the public! The more artistic ones drew us a square!!

My square! (I just got off the phone with Beth, so I promised I would draw her a square.)

Where we work!

2 girls in the other JV casa in Sacramento work at this school. 
4 seventh graders drew this!

Old Sacramento! (These pictures are from last weekend when it
wasn't crowded for Gold Rush Days. Add tons of people, some costumed performers, horses and buggies, and dirt roads, and that is what it looked like this weekend!)

Salt water taffy shop- take a free sample from every bucket!

The Sacramento Bridge! It is painted in gold.

Us and a few extra at the school in Loaves and Fishes!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hot times. . . Summer in the city

So this week has been a true roller coaster ride! Because this week started off at the end of the month, it was crazy busy!  (SSI checks are given out at the first of the month.  By the end, people don't have money left, therefore the park gets crowded.)  On Monday, over 900 lunches were served (the second time in seven years!) but we only had one person gets 86ed (our lingo for kicked out).  On Tuesday we didn't serve that many (about 850), but there were 4 fights and 7 people got 86ed.  Wednesday was better, but still crowded.

Then SSI checks came out.  Thursday seemed dead compared to the other days.  We served about 700 lunches, but it seemed more relaxed, almost happy.  (Odd isn't it that 700 people is "dead?") The park is usually not as busy on Fridays (I think it's because of food stamps, but I'm still not sure), and today was the least busy I've ever seen the park.  We only served about 550 lunches, and it seemed like only 200 or so people stuck around.  Without anything to do (service counter/ticket wise), I just hung out all day. 

Some negative things that happened this week:
- I got hit in the face on Tuesday with a jean jacket.  One particularly crazy lady was using her jacket as a weapon, and swung at me.  (Last Tuesday, a crazy man pushed me.) Tuesdays are not my days.  (Both my bosses know of the incidents and worker harassment is not tolerated.)
- Madonna (a former JV and worker at the park for 5 years) left on Wednesday to start work over at the women's day shelter across the street.
-Tasha (a worker of 8+ years) left today to work as the director of our dining room.
- I haven't seen a guest who is friendly with me for two days.  No one knows what happened to him and I pray that he is okay and see him Tuesday. 

Some positive things that happened this week:
- I don't have to work on Monday!!
- I networked with a guest of ours who worked in the country music field.  He gave me a name of a songwriter guru he worked with, and said that if I need a job after this, give this man a call!
- I had my first one-on-one talk with my casa-mate Alice! (As a casa, we organized a schedule where we could talk to each other, just two of us, once a week.) It was great getting to personally know her more, and on our way home, we ran into a kid asking us where a shelter was.  I directed him to Loaves and Fishes, and saw him there the next day!
- A guest at the park went home! This young man traveled out here for a girl, not realizing that she didn't feel the same way as he did.  After a few weeks of being homeless and unhappy, he decided to go back to his home state! (As much as I love the guests, I love not seeing them for the right reasons!)
- Last but not least, I got called "Miss Lady" today!  Beth and Tom are huge fans of the comedy "Stepbrothers" with Will Farrell and John C. Reiley.  I watched it with them, and one of the quotable lines from it is "Hello Miss Lady!" I was reminded of this comic scene and the joy of my family!

 All in all, this week has been an interesting one to experience.  I look forward to getting to know my casa-mates more, and more of the clients!

P.S.- I cooked dinner for the first time this week! Eggplant Parmigiana and Pasta Primervera with Chicken! Shout to Mom who gave me the "recipes."
P.P.S.- It is getting hotter here, almost a hundred! I think I drank 4 bottles of water today!