The following was written by AHA Senior Tristan Jensen as a trimester-end project in her Campus Ministry team Service Learning course
Every Sunday morning at 7:15 am, I enter People Serving People and am greeted by the security guard while I check in. I then walk down to the serving kitchen where I am greeted by the cooking staff with a cheery “good morning, Tristan”, and slowly the other volunteers come in and we get our hairnets, aprons, and gloves on as we wait for the families to start coming through the line. Usually when I go, I either help with scooping cereal or filling up drinks. Scooping cereal allows me to greet every family as they come in and hear their grateful “thank you”s as they leave, and serving drinks allows me to interact with those who want coffee or help the little kids who cannot reach high enough the grab the juice. I spend an hour serving breakfast and get to watch the smiling faces of the families as they interact while eating their meals. When breakfast ends at 8:45, we finish off our service by sweeping the floors and cleaning off the tables. Once I am done, the staff says “See you next week” and I go to check out, passing by and saying goodbye to the families on my way out.
Service is a very important aspect in my life. In the past I had served at many organizations like Feed My Starving Children, which reach out to those in need in farther away places, but when I started at People Serving People with Campus Ministry Team, I was able to see the immediate impact I am having by handing each person their tray of food. I have genuinely enjoyed doing this type of service and I feel really blessed to be able to help those struggling within my own community and be able to see the impact I am having through my service. In attending AHA, I have had the amazing opportunity to serve at places like this where I am able to gain a greater purpose in life and sense of helping my community. I have been able to grasp the concept of our mission that says “serve selflessly” through the many opportunities for service that AHA helps me to get involved in. Serving the homeless has been so impactful for me that I have been inspired to incorporate it into my Jefferson Award project. My group and I are planning on helping the homeless that are not always able to find the resources they need to find shelters or find other basic necessities. As a whole, service has been a very enlightening experience for me, and getting to serve in a different way this year has really changed my perspective on service.
People Serving People, the organization that I attend with CMT, is a homeless shelter that strives to improve the lives of the homeless and help them to find solutions to get out of their situations. Their mission statement reads “Serving homeless children and their families and providing new opportunities for healthy, stable family life.” The work of PSP really focuses on the family to help the parents better support their kids and help them to grow into better futures where they can be successful. This is incredibly important to not only help the families to create a stable life, but also to help end the cycle of homelessness for the kids already affected by it in their lives. They seek to end a family’s homelessness through emergency housing and community services. The breakfast food services that I help with is only one of the many other services PSP offers the families that come to the shelters. The programs strive to help better educate those staying at the shelter as well as help prepare them to get jobs and overcome their situations. They help the families to become self-sufficient and reconnected with the community in order to assist them in getting out of homelessness. They do this by teaching them to make their futures better instead of just providing them with services that won’t completely help them out of homelessness. My service is fundamental for many reasons, but the many other opportunities that PSP offers are essential to helping these families defeat homelessness. I really enjoy being able to volunteer of this great organization because I am able to be a part of the amazing efforts they are making the help homeless families in our community.
After serving at PSP, I have come to change my perspective on the issue of homelessness in Minnesota, as well as gain a new perspective on how I can help these families. In the past service that I mentioned, I had gained this idea that homelessness and poverty are more of an issue in other countries, but I have come to realize the great amount of those suffering in my own community. I am now more aware of those in need in my own community, even 15 minutes from my own home. I have also realized that I am able to have an impact on the lives of these families with something as simple as giving two hours of my time to serve them breakfast. Even though I am only one person, I can make a difference in the lives of so many families. This fundamental meal is helping the kids to stay healthy and focused so they can excel in school, and helping the parents to get fed the necessary food to go out and work jobs to help care for their children. I have come to realize the great importance of serving those within my community and helping build them up to success.
As it states in Leviticus 25:35, “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him.” This passage is meaningful to me because it shows the importance of serving those who are less fortunate than yourself. Despite the fact that I have always been told this, I have finally been able to gain an even deeper understanding of this through my service at PSP. This also goes along the lines of our AHA Way which says “help others and myself to succeed.” I am not only committing my time to food services to help the homeless get the help they need to be successful in school, jobs, and life; but also giving myself important and enlightening tools that are helping me to be a better person. Lastly in another aspect of the AHA Way, I am communicating to these families that they matter to me, and helping them to create better lives is something that is important to me. By volunteering my time to these people, I am communicating to them that I value them as people, and genuinely want them to succeed. Through my service at PSP, I have learned many great lessons and have learned the importance of service that I will implement throughout my life.