Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Break! zoë's perspective.

The Empire State Building is 1,250 feet high. The structure dwarfs the hundreds of yellow taxis and the men and women who walk along side of it. It dwarfed me as I walked by it on my way to the Moravian House on 18th Street – a place where the homeless and distressed population of New York City can receive transitional housing and supportive services. I stepped into the doors of the Moravian House and met my new friend Mike. It was then that I experienced my second skyscraper of the day – Mike's motivation and drive – and felt exponentially smaller.

We arrived at the Moravian House with the mission of teaching some residents how to use a computer for e-mail and basic Microsoft Word functions. It definitely didn’t appeal to me well as our other planned activities had, but I was going to do my best to enjoy myself and help out someone in need. So we walked into a room that had four brand new computers, sat and waited. Our first candidate came in. He came strolling in the door wearing a New York knit beanie, a Brooklyn t-shirt, and some black jeans. “I’m Mike. I want to learn computers,” He said with a beaming grin. So I sat him down and taught him everything I knew. For four hours I described in detail the functions of the keyboard (he had no idea what the space bar was) and showe
d him the magic of attaching files in e-mail and page borders. Mike shared with me his story as I shared my technology knowledge. He didn’t know how to read or write well because he never received a good education, making his adult life even more difficult. He eagerly worked at his jobs, but couldn’t receive higher salaries because of his lack of knowledge. Yet I can’t even begin to explain his enthusiasm or his excited spirit. In the four hours I worked with him he followed all that I said and diligently took notes on what I was saying. Mike was exceptionally bright.

My experience at the Moravian House helped to define my purpose on the Spring Break in the Big Apple trip – I learned that my difficulties can’t and shouldn’t limit my desire to learn. At Point Park, opportunities are everywhere. Many people don’t even live with that option – people like Mike. However Mike lived with more passion and dedication for knowledge than a lot of students I know, including myself sometimes. Coming back from New York City, I brought a new sense of appreciation and new motivation. Clearly, Spring Break in the Big Apple inspired me. I can’t express my entire satisfaction with the trip.

:) keep smiling!

(thanks to Mary for taking the photo!)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Wonderful Spring Break!

My Spring Break in The Big Apple was absolutely fantastic. I got to experience a plane ride for the first time and make many new friends that go to Point Park. The community service projects that we did were shoveling snow off of a playground so that kids were able to play, leveling a dog running park, teaching the needy how to use the Internet and making them food and reorganizing a Housing Works store in Chelsea for their spring preview where all of the benefits help people struggling with HIV/AIDS.
Shoveling the snow from the park was more fun than I thought it would be. We got the park cleaned up and ready to go, and it was a great feeling to see the kids be able to run excitedly and start playing. Zoe, John and myself ended up
getting to play too. After we finished removing the snow, we went down to a nearby dog running park and helped level the sand so it w
as even for the dogs and their owners. I have to say, I've never seen so many people in New York City walking their dogs. I made friends with/petted over 20 dogs on the trip.
The next day we went to the Moravian House and helped teach the needy how to use the Internet and basic programs on the computer. We also ran to a local market and made the residents three types of pudding, rice crispy treats and fruit salad. They residents were so nice and welcoming an
d I think they had a good time, as did we.
Our third volunteer
project was helping out at a store called Housing Works in Chelsea, NY. All of the items
in Housing Wor
ks are donated and all of the proceeds benefit people battling the HIV/AIDS virus. It reminded me of an Urban Outfitters but with more of a variety. There were Prada, Coach and Chanel shoes as well as name brand purses and awesome clothes. It was so hard to resist wanting to take everything home! Zoe, Anna and I passed out flyers on the subway promoting the Spring Preview event that we were working for. Some of us painted, color-coordinated clothes, organized shoes and moved furniture. It was a great experience and something that I will definitely remember for the rest of my life.
I'm very glad that I was able to go on the Alternative Spring Break to NYC. It was such a great opportunity to help others while having a blast in the city.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Our Day At Housing Works

On Wednesday, March 3rd, we traveled to Chelsea to help out at a thrift store of Housing Works. Housing Works is renowned for addressing the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS that other organizations deem “too challenging to serve.” There are seven of these thrift stores located throughout NYC, and the one we volunteered at was located in Chelsea. The stores sell high-end vintage treasures to bargain hunters and fashionistas alike. The stores not only provide more than $12 million in funding per year, but also ensures a supply of clothing and essentials for their clients.
We spent a full day helping out at Housing Works doing a variety of tasks. Many of us were sent out for an hour or two to hand out brochures advertising Housing Work's Spring Preview that took place Thursday night at 5pm. Our advertising skills were definitely tested, being we were asked to leave the Chelsea Markets twice before we budged, and let's just say New Yorkers are not the most approachable. Many of us adapted though and migrated to the Subway or street corners to spread the word about Housing Work's Spring Preview.
Besides advertising, much work needed to be done in the actual store to prepare for the big Spring Preview. All kinds of furniture needed to be arranged and then re-arranged around the store until they were perfectly situated. Racks and racks of clothes needed to be color-coordinated. Walls, shelves and display-mounts needed to be painted. Bathrooms cleaned. Tabletops cleaned. Shelves organized. And the list goes on and on. Our whole group was there to help out with all of these things and the workers there were super awesome to work with.
The photos I captured are only a glimpse into the work we did here, so hopefully some more pictures will be posted by everyone else!

John and me painted the wall and shelves behind the front counter.

Organizing the back room.

Helen Fallon learns the depth of organizing pots, plates and everything in between so that they look just right on the shelves.

Alicia and Anne organize clothes on the racks by color.

Hope you enjoyed!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Community Service" Serves More Than Just The Community

I think every one of us can readily agree that the volunteer work we did today not only benefited the community in a positive way but without a doubt, it benefited every single one of us personally.. helping us realize the power and significance of voluntarily contributing in the simplest form. The straightforward task of shoveling snow off of a playground so that children can play safely. Spreading out sand in a dog-run so that the dog-owners and man's best friend can play catch and romp around in a safe and clean environment. These both were simple tasks we performed for Partnership In The Parks with Terese Flores (City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation Manager) that not only helped create safe, fun and clean surroundings for the community.. but also cut out many hours that Terese and other workers would have otherwise spent doing these jobs. Terese Flores has faced budget cuts and has lost a few workers, so we were all aware that our work was very valuable. Here's some photos from The East River Esplanade .. Enjoy!

Terese Flores tells us about their work with Partnership In The Parks.

Removing snow from the playground.

Leveling sand in the dog-run.

Friendly dogs, Jean and Max, showing us appreciation for leveling their play area :)

Group photo.

After a fun time volunteering at the park, we made our trek to the Moravian Open Door home.. a not-for-profit organization where a safe, clean and substance-free environment is provided for the homeless. We volunteered here by performing an array of tasks including teaching basic computer skills to the residents, assembling a bed, sitting in at the front desk, washing dishes and preparing a handful of foods. Not only did the people working there accept us with open arms, but the residents made us feel very comfortable. Different from the work we did at the park, at the Moravian Open Door home we were able to see the effects of our volunteer work firsthand. The charisma beaming from some of the residents here warmed our hearts, and the overall gratitude of the work we were doing warmed our hearts even more. I'm sure some people in the world wouldn't be able to wrap their heads around the fact that there are people out there that have gone through life without knowing how to save files to a flash drive or change the desktop picture on their computer. Here, we had the opportunity to change a person's life by simply teaching them such skills. It was touching. Here's some photos from our day at the Moravian Open Door home.. I only have photos from the kitchen, because it was impossible to photograph assembling a bed while assembling it ;)

Banana Pudding!

Took a brief break to capture the fruit me and John were chopping for a delicious fruit salad for the residents.

Mack drying some dishes.

That's all I've got, folks!
Tomorrow we're heading to Housing Works, a thrift-store that is largest community-based AIDS service organization in the United States, as well as the nation’s largest minority-controlled AIDS service organization. We're going to help clean out the store, organize and merchandise it. Sweet deal.

Until next time,

Monday, March 1, 2010

First Timer Impressions

Hey all! Mack here. Just when I thought Pittsburgh was a pretty big city, I've learned that there are ones much bigger! I never been to NYC before and am enthralled with the amount of people and things that they can fit into one city block.
We rode the Metro subway system today... so much different from our T. The subway rides at a very fast speed compared to the T, like a hare and a turtle. You got to be quick on your feet or you will easily miss your destination spot.
I remember growing up watching TRL with Carson Daly and wondering what it'd be like to be around those giant billboards. I got to experience that today, and took a tour around Times Square. At night time, it is an amazing site. There are Starbucks stores everywhere! (go figure) and even a 3 story Toys R Us with a working Ferris Wheel inside. I guess only in NY! haha

Tomorrow starts our first service; I can't wait! Time for some much needed sleep. 60 blocks of walking can wear one out.

Bye for now,