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Posts Tagged ‘outreach’

Two women in San Francisco felt compassion for homeless people who have nowhere to go during the day. So they arranged with a local Catholic church to welcome them.

Patricia Leigh Brown wrote the story for the Christian Science Monitor series called “People Making a Difference: Ordinary People Taking Action for Extraordinary Change.”

“Tina Christopher’s day begins at 5:45 a.m. as she cleans the sidewalk in front of St. Boniface Catholic Church in the Tenderloin, the once-colorful vice district in San Francisco now better known as a province of the poor, the desperate, the addicted, and the down and out. …

” ‘All right my beautiful brothers and sisters!’ Ms. Christopher says in her always-chipper voice. ‘Good morning! Time to get up! Wakey wakey!’ Then she unlocks the church’s heavy iron gate.

“Soon, St. Boniface’s 74 backmost pews will cradle some 150 homeless people seeking ‘sacred sleep,’ the sound of snoring permeating the incense-filled room. Beneath the saints painted on the church’s glittering dome, they stretch out for nine hours of vital slumber, resting their heads on ad hoc sweatshirt and T-shirt pillows or sometimes their folded hands. For a brief moment, their faces, beatific and babylike in sleep, do not betray the nights of fearful wandering and the way concrete seeps into a person’s bones and stays there.

“Christopher is the program director of The Gubbio Project, a pioneering effort, believed to be the country’s first. … Cofounded in 2004 by the Rev. Louis Vitale, a well-known peace and human rights advocate, the program provides a place for homeless people to sleep during the daylight hours, when most shelters are closed.

The project is named after Gubbio, the Italian town where, the story goes, residents befriended a wolf after realizing the animal wasn’t dangerous, just hungry.

“The project’s guiding lights are two women who are devoted to the dignity of the people they call ‘guests.’ Laura Slattery, Gubbio’s executive director and public voice, is a West Point graduate-turned-social justice activist who wears jeans and hiking boots and exudes a sense of calm resolve, even in a crisis. Christopher is the exuberant all-hands-on-deck ground commander who knows the name of every guest and whose finely tuned antennae swiftly intuit their needs and issues. …

“At St. Boniface, Christopher writes daily notices on the whiteboard:

“Shower bus 8:30-2
“We have Blankets!
“Tomorrow – some socks.

“She is in constant motion, eyeglasses perched atop her head, dispensing cough drops, rubber bands, tampons, shaving cream, and other necessities from a converted confessional. She makes it a point to ask guests whether they’d prefer a pink toothbrush or a blue one, a black blanket or a brown one. ‘Even the simplest things are important to people who don’t have choices,’ she explains.

“Socks and other staples come from volunteers like Roberta Snyder, who has established relationships with housekeepers at nearby hotels and provides soaps, shampoos, and other items …

“[Slattery] thinks of The Gubbio Project as ‘the ministry of presence,’ one that dispels some popular myths about homeless people along the way. Quite a number of donations to Gubbio’s $350,000 annual budget, for instance, are made by guests. ‘Last week it was $42,’ Slattery says. ‘The week before it was 24. Flips the idea of panhandling on its head, right?’ ”

Click here to read about the women’s routes to their unusual calling — one through addiction, one through West Point.

Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/Christian Science Monitor
Tina Christopher (l.) and Laura Slattery run The Gubbio Project, which gives people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco a place to go during the day.

1107-pmad-mgubbio

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Fyfe-Day-repertoire-with-frame-cardGreeting card of Meredith Fyfe Day’s “Repertoire with Frame.”

Back in the early 1990s, I worked for Meredith Fyfe Day at Harte-Hanks newspapers, where we whipped into shape tottering stacks of press releases of wildly varying literacy.

That was Meredith’s day job. She was also a working artist. My husband and I have long enjoyed her shows, several of which were at the Whistler House Museum of Art in Lowell when Meredith was the artist in residence.

Recently a friend of hers tagged her on Facebook, which was how I learned that the Lowell Sun wrote an article on her latest artistic venture.

Reporter Debbie Hovanasian writes at the Sun, that Meredith “was recently awarded a grant from the Parker Foundation. The result is ‘Making Art with Artists,’ and Fife Day, who teaches painting at Middlesex Community College, couldn’t be more thrilled.

“During her prior experience teaching art to young students,’I could see the kids blossoming, even the tough kids who said they didn’t like art. I would encourage them and it would light a spark. They’d come back with such enthusiasm, and I fell in love with seeing that change in children,’ she said.

” ‘Making Art with Artists’ is a seven-week summer program offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at no cost at Christ Church United on East Merrimack Street [Lowell, MA] …  with emphasis on fourth- to eighth-graders, she said.

“The program facilitates the teaching of art to under-resourced and under-served children, Fife Day said. The four teachers are experienced, working artists who will make a presentation of their own work to the students in two successive classes. …

“One of the program’s goals is for the children to adapt the techniques of the artists in order to make their own artwork as well as collaborative artwork, using their own and combined imaginations, Fife Day explained. It also aims to give children a positive alternative to high-risk behavior by giving them high quality educational opportunities …

“Fife Day is currently seeking community donors — food or funds — for a lunch program, which she plans to offer free of charge to the budding artists, a cost not covered within the grant.

“The day is structured so that the students work on individual projects in the morning and group projects in the afternoon. There’s also yoga after lunch and free time early morning and late afternoon, during which Fife Day is exploring having musicians and other volunteers willing to donate their time to entertain or supervise the children.

” ‘It’s about giving the children hope and letting them have fun believing in themselves, knowing that the next day can be as much fun as this one,’ she said.” More here.

Photo: Lowell Sun
Art by Meredith Fyfe Day

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Back in November, Jamie Smith Hopkins wrote for the Baltimore Sun about a group called Gather Baltimore, which “collects donations of food from farmers markets and schools and delivers them to organizations in the city for distribution to those in need.”

Hopkins says, “Gather Baltimore, the fledging group that organized the rapid harvest, does this work every week — collecting food that would otherwise go to waste and distributing it in city neighborhoods.”

“Arthur Gray Morgan, a teacher and urban farmer who founded Gather Baltimore, is a newly minted fellow with the Open Society Institute-Baltimore. His fellowship mission for the next 18 months: expand Gather Baltimore and make it sustainable. …”Morgan, who tends the Hamilton Crop Circle gardens in Northeast Baltimore, has collected and distributed free food for several years — ever since he saw how much went to waste at farmers’ markets. What couldn’t be sold wasn’t necessarily taken back to the farm. Frequently, it was tossed out.

“That bothered Morgan, who hears a frequent refrain from his students at Hamilton Elementary/Middle: ‘I’m hungry, I’m hungry.’ …

“Now he and his army of volunteers have the work down to a science — harvesting, picking up donations from local stores and stopping off at the downtown farmers’ market to cart off anything farmers want to contribute after the customers leave.”

You can help Gather Baltimore by voting for it at reddit, here.

Photograph of Arthur Gray Morgan: Baltimore Sun

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According to Doug Donovan at The Chronicle of Philanthropy, here. the number of volunteers in the United States is at its highest level since 2005.

“More than one-quarter of Americans did volunteer work in 2011, providing 7.9 billion hours of service worth $171 billion. …

“The 1.5 million additional volunteers boosted the national rate to 26.8 percent of the population, a half percentage point higher than 2010. But the dollar value dipped by $2 billion, as the average number of hours Americans volunteered in a year dropped to 32.7 from 33.9, the Corporation for National and Community Service reported.

“Robert Grimm, director of the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at the University of Maryland, said the increase was mainly the result of the growth in the American population, not a response to the economy or other factors.”

Well, that’s too bad. People who don’t squeeze some sort of volunteer work into their lives are missing out. If you find an opportunity that works for you, it can be very satisfying.

Where I work, people have been volunteering for years at an inner city school, and the experience just gets better and better. Not only do we feel like we are really helping the kids improve their skills, but we enjoy building friendships with others in our organization as we ride the van to our destination.

I don’t want to make my volunteering to sound like a bigger deal than it is. Each person gives only about an hour and a half a month, overlapping with lunchtime. My point is that even a little bit can make a difference for someone, especially when combined with the efforts of others. One and one and 50 make a million.

Photograph: Mike Brown/The Commercial Appeal/AP
Three volunteers share a laugh while they serve home-cooked meal to residents of Memphis Towers, an independent living community for the elderly and disabled in Memphis, Tenn, Dec. 10, 2012.

 

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Here is another great music outreach to kids: the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra’s Tune up Philly initiative.

“The mission of Philadelphia Youth Orchestra’s Tune Up Philly program is to nurture urban children in challenging social and economic conditions by keeping them engaged in success through weekday out-of-school hours music instruction.  Through its Tune Up Philly program, Philadelphia Youth Orchestra organization believes that music education is a powerful vehicle for children to master skills that will enable them to acquire valuable tools for cooperative learning, teamwork, academic success and self-esteem.” More.

The Inquirer classical music critic Peter Dobrin wrote at Philly.com that an important goal of the initial program was to show the rest of the city what is possible.

“The brain-child of 24-year-old Curtis Institute of Music graduate Stanford Thompson … and adopted by the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, Tune Up Philly started at St. Francis de Sales … with the aim of replicating itself at other sites …

“Modeled on the widely praised and emulated El Sistema program that has educated millions of children in Venezuela, Philadelphia’s upstart is already gathering considerable support. Since initial coverage in the Inquirer and subsequent media attention, the program has received donations of cellos, clarinets, double basses, flutes, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, violas, violins and other instruments, plus about $13,000 in cash and $10,000 in in-kind services.” More.

Photograph: First graders exploring xylophones in the 2012 summer program.

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I went to the concert of an oboe-playing friend Sunday. The 3 p.m. event coincided with the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that took place a year ago in Japan. My friend, of Japanese heritage, was moved by the music he was playing, and so was I. The modern pieces really sounded like an earthquake to me. I had visions of Poseidon, the Bull from the Sea, rising up in anger against humankind, and later of hope dawning.

The Charles River Wind Ensemble, where my friend plays, has a new conductor. I liked Matthew Marsit’s energetic style and his explanations of the pieces. Marsit, a clarinetist himself, is also a conductor at Dartmouth College, where he practices his belief in music outreach to lower-income communities.

“An advocate for the use of music as a vehicle for service, Matthew has led ensembles on service missions in Costa Rica and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, collecting instruments for donation to schools, performing charity benefit concerts and offering workshops to benefit arts programs in struggling schools.  His current work at Dartmouth allows for outreach projects in the rural schools of New Hampshire and Vermont, working to stimulate interest in school performing arts programs.” Read more.

I think musicians can be very giving people. Indian Hill Music in Littleton, Massachusetts, offers scholarships and more. Someone I know on the board tells me that Indian Hill has “a program to bring music instruction to schools in the region that have cut out music due to budgetary constraints. They also offer free concerts, a Threshold choir (music for dying patients), and a number of other outreach efforts.”

In Providence, Rhode Island, Community MusicWorks demonstrates how music builds community and teaches social responsibility. You can read about this and other innovations in Rhode Island’s creative economy here.

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