A Three Day, Unexpected Service Experience

NDP student volunteers holding the zucchini that they harvested at First Fruits Farm.

Mr. Steve Pomplon

NDP student volunteers holding the zucchini that they harvested at First Fruits Farm.

Haley Dick, Editor-in-Chief

Although the counselors of the Sister’s Academy Camp were blue when they received word that the camp would not be able to happen in the summer of 2015 due to the retiring of the SSNDs Sister Debbie and Sister Virginia, they were eager to fulfill their week of service elsewhere. They put on their old tennis shoes and a hat and took on the unexpected week of service with open minds and open hearts. On the first and second days, the Upper Level volunteers worked on First Fruits Farm, a volunteer run farm founded in 1998 by Rick and Carol Bernstein, harvesting zucchini. Completely volunteer run, the farm donates all of their crops to organizations serving needy individuals and families in their communities. While it is interesting that the farm is completely run by volunteers, some of whom have been volunteering for sixteen years, it is unique in the fact that it is based completely on their faith in God and fulfilling His will. One of the men out in the fields with the girls was Dan Millender, who does a little bit of everything as farm manager and ambassador of the farm. The work in the fields was hot and grueling, but knowing that each zucchini in the approximated 8 ton harvest was going to someone who needs it made it all worth it each day.

On the third day, the volunteers were exposed to two different places: The Viva House and Healthcare for the Homeless. Located in southwest Baltimore, Viva House is unlike any other soup kitchen because it is not the standard walk-through the line and sit down method, but rather a more home-like approach, with everyone receiving the same food at a table set in the dining area of a house. The volunteers took an assembly line approach to make over 400 sandwiches for the homeless people who were to arrive later in the afternoon. The founders, Brendan Walsh and Willa Bickham, were drawn to the Catholic Worker and opened up their house to the homeless for the first time in 1968. It all began when Mr. Walsh moved to Baltimore to join the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War, and Ms. Bickham did the same for the poor. The two married in 1967, and started the Viva House on one, principle foundation: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Healthcare for the Homeless is an organization designed to provide full services, including both health care and dentistry, to the homeless people of Baltimore at no cost. They make their services easily accessible to their patients by scheduling appointments and accepting walk-ins. While there are both volunteers and paid-professionals working at the office, they offer internships to NDP students in the pediatrics department. The NDP student volunteers were led by Patrick Diamond on a tour of the facility and were exposed to another world of opportunities to serve the marginalized people in their home-town community.

Throughout the course of the service mission, the volunteers were able to physically cultivate the crops that are sent to the soup kitchens, prepare a meal at a unique homeless shelter, and walk through the life struggles of what the people experiencing homelessness encounter every day at their care clinic, and ultimately putting into perspective a timeline of what their service did for their community in just three days. Not only were they happy to serve God and the less-fortunate, but they were able to understand the meaning of service, the lengths at which their service reaches, and what it truly does for the good of their community.