Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like

Politics this past year have been rough on everyone. No matter what side of the political spectrum you fell into in this past election, you probably felt some form of disappointment with your candidate or with the political process. With everything going on, we felt the need to stand up for our rights, to be a reminder that we are the majority and that we are watching.

The excitement for the day really started out the night before. Anna and I were waiting on our friends from the ESC program in NYC to arrive. Around 11, we found out that their bus full of protestors had broken down just south of the Maryland/Pennsylvania border. Deciding not to wait for a backup bus, we set out to rescue them. Following our GPS we ended up on a windy little backroad completely covered in fog. It definitely set the mood for how inauguration day had made many of us feel.

But through the ominous fog (and with checking the GPS every 5 seconds) we finally made it tot the rest-stop they were stuck at. As we pulled up to the bus, we could see different groups of people all over the

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We’re all super awake

parking lot, trying to find transportation to DC for the next day. We even had a couple people asking us if we could take anyone with us. We found our friends Rachel and Hannah and safely made it back to Baltimore.

The next day started very early. Our bus left at 7am (which if you know me, you know I’m barely functioning by 10am) so we had to get up pretty early to make it in time. We got to Redeemer just in time to meet our group leader and board the buses. Everyone was really excited and the bus buzzed with energy as we sped off toward DC.

When our bus got to DC, we circled the stadium before we parked. It was incredible to see the sheer amount of people walking towards the capitol. It was a sea of pink hats. We stepped off the bus and joined the throng headed toward the metro. The platform was completely packed and we all piled into the train. Once on the train they told us there were so many people at the station closest to the rally point that they were closing the station and we should plan to get off somewhere else.

We got off at the Capitol and once again joined the masses of people headed towards the march. It took us close to an hour to make it off the platform. Trains were arriving every few minutes and added more and more people to our masses. The energy was so potent you could feel it in theIMG_2345 air. Every so often someone would start up a chant and we would all chant and cheer and wave at the passing trains. The chanting continued as we made our way down the street, passing the Capitol, before finally arriving at 3rd and Independence.

We spent the next few hours wandering through the crowds. Our group got separated at one point, but we eventually all wandered back together. We eventually found ourselves caught up in a crowd stuck behind the Native American Museum. Everywhere we went you could see people admiring each other’s signs and outfits, discussing their reasons for marching, and coming together to protest as one. The energy was so positive and everywhere we went people were so warm and welcoming to each other. One woman showed up in a Trump hat followed by a man with a camera trying to stir up an argument. They were met with polite disagreement and soon left because they could not get the spiteful response they wanted.

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Famous women and their important contributions

The energy grew more restless as we approached the start time for the march. The word spread that there were too many people on the parade route already so we could not march that way. People got more and more restless, and eventually we just took off in our own direction. We followed the crowd up Pennsylvania Ave. towards the White House, following the same route that the Inaugural Parade had taken the day before. It was incredible to watch as the bleachers along the route fill up with spectators and marchers alike. As we marched along our voices joined as one with all the different chants from the day. For awhile me marched near a family with two adorable tiny girls who were some of the biggest voices of the group. They lead the chants and everyone around them couldn’t help but to join in.

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Protestors on the bleachers

We made it almost to the White House before we had to return to the bus. We took the metro back from Federal Triangle. The vibe was still completely positive as people helped each other figure out which way they needed to go to get back home. We were all exhausted by the time we made it back to the bus, but you could still tell that everyone was excited and happy with the events of the day. People were swapping stories and sharing snacks as we waited for the bus to leave. By the time we got on the highway though, everybody had settled in and most of us had fallen asleep.

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Favorite sign from the march!

All in all it was an amazing experience. One that will live on in our memories forever. The fight still isn’t over though. Watching the events that have taken place since the march, there is still plenty more work to do. It is up to us as citizens of this country to keep our government in check. The organizers of the march have put together the next 10 actions to be taken in the first 100 days. So get involved, and help us keep fighting for the rights of all people. Together we really can make America great! This is what democracy looks like!

The Stories Underneath

So many of us, when walking or driving around, we see the people holding those cardboard signs, those who seem less fortunate than us. What we never realize or never even think about is the fact of how many there are. We never think about who they are or their circumstances surrounding how they got there. We never realize what types of experiences that they have had to get to where they are. I am one now to think about what is available to them nowadays and not feel as sorry for them. But also at the same time, I never think about what they may had gone through during their time of homelessness, who they may of encountered, how many bad experiences they have had to not even want to go into a shelter.

The homeless point in time count started today. It actually started for me on last Thursday (January 19) when I went to the team leader training. When I first heard about this homeless point in time count, I was very intrigued by the idea of getting to do something like this just for the fact of being better able to understand more of the idea of where residents who live where I work could of came from before going to the shelter.  Homelessness has always been a curiosity of mine because it never makes sense. Now since working at the shelter it has made me have even more questions especially about those who are panhandling on different streets.  There are so many resources available for these people where they could have three meals a day as well as most of the time a place to sleep and even people to help them find a home and get health services. All these questions that I have have led me to want to participate in this count just to find out more about how people on the street may live.

Starting out,  the training was very interesting. The people were organized but could be better so. One of the most interesting aspects of this count for me was the veteran portion.  They are wanting all veterans that we meet on the street to automatically go into a shelter that night.  And then they said that they would find them shelter within 48 hours. For me that seems a bit surreal. The training overall allowed me to learn a lot. The only difference between the team leader training and the normal volunteer training was the fact that we got to learn about our route to find the homeless people. In the training we learned about the survey as well as the different crisis methods (in case there happened to be one). We also got to meet people who may also be on the team. In my case, the other team members of mine had gone to the training the previous day so I was unable to meet them until Sunday night (January 22). Overall I felt that the training was very productive and it made me even more excited for the event itself.

On the Sunday night, the excitement happened. We were supposed to meet at 7 pm at Our Daily Bread. Originally, I had no idea where that was, so I planned on driving there. When I put it in my GPS though, I found out that it was only 0.4 miles from where I was, so in the beginning I felt quite stupid. In the end though, it was OK cause I had to drive around for about 20 minutes trying to find parking. Each time that I went to the training places I found it very interesting. Since being in Baltimore I have been able to learn a lot more about the different homeless resources and where people can go to get help. But I had never actually seen the different

My team members

My team members

properties. So being able to go into both Helping Up Mission as well as Our Daily Bread makes the words actually have some pictures to them. It helps me to see how well put together they are and how they can be so successful. Both of the places are quite big buildings and they allow a lot of people to be in there at once which is a great help when there are so many homeless in Baltimore that are needing more resources.

 

Both nights of the count we were provided with pizza for dinner. The first night though, was the night that all of the people on the team met. My team in itself was quite small, we only had 5 people on our team. In the end though, it was perfectly fine cause we drove most of the time and only needed to take one vehicle. We were assigned to the area around Federal Hill and down near Fort McHenry. We didn’t encounter many of homeless people on the street the first night, but the first one we had I had pointed out because it looked like a person, but I wasn’t for sure. In the end though, we encountered about 5 people that night, 3 of which completed a full survey. Overall I was very pleased with the first night.

The second night was just as eventful as well as it went smoother. That night as well I was able to have a friend join on our volunteer time. We did not meet as many people that night as well. I was able to point out another person though that was not as noticeable from the vehicle. He was one who was noticeably mentally handicapped. He got very nervous when most of the team was surrounding him. One of the people on the team was one who carried around things to give out to people he encountered, so he was able to give him a new blanket. After that I asked him again if he would be willing to and he accepted after I asked if it was only me.

After that experience when we were back in the vehicle, one of the other people on the team asked me what my major was in university. I told her that I majored in International Studies with a minor in World Languages and Culture. She told me after that it was very surprising to me because of the fact that I have a natural helping ability.

After I heard that, it just made things clear for me. Since I started working here at Project PLASE, I had considered different paths for what I should do after this year. I had been considering a master’s degree down the path, but  didn’t even know what to do. But I was leaning towards a Social Work degree. After this women told me that, I was just like, OK, its going to happen. I don’t know when I will start it, but I will definitely be moving my way to getting that degree.

One impressive thing that I realized from this Point in Time Count was how dedicated Baltimore is to trying to drastically reduce homelessness in the city. The mayor was present at the first night to give a short speech. It impressed me that she was willing to come and talk to the volunteers are wanting to help to count the people suffering with this issue.

Here is my sneaky photo of the mayor talking.

Here is my sneaky photo of the mayor talking.

 

This experience for me has been one to make me think about a lot. It has made me realize that people have different experiences in different places. We may think we are doing best for them, but in some ways, it may be making things worse for people. Sometimes people may not want our help. One of the people that I met during this experience was one who wasn’t homeless in his mind. He may of been homeless in my mind and others’ minds, but in his, he has they says “home is where the heart is.” He is happy where he is staying, so why should he move? With that in mind, sometimes we need to think about other people and try to put ourselves in their shoes. Sometimes, what we think may help, could also hinder.

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The beautiful night view. One of my favorite things about living in a city.

Connecting Back, Continuing Forward

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Spending the past several days back in Buffalo, NY I was able to see my family and friends again after our move to Baltimore back in August. All of my five siblings were home at once, I spent time with friends from AmeriCorps I had made last year, and still was able to participate in a secret santa gift exchange with my high school friends who continue to meet up on a weekly basis. One of my best friends from college even came over to my parents’ house to spend the New Year with all of us!

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My amazing family! Top: Me, Martha and Peter. Bottom: Mom, Dad, Ben and Beth

All of these connections are important for me to keep up with, especially since I don’t live in Buffalo anymore. Having fun with old friends was a perfect way to spend the holiday season and I’m thankful for the hugs, conversations, and going out on the town with all of them. But after ringing in the New Year, I was Baltimore bound once again.

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College bestie: Kelsey!

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High school friends from left: Stephen, James, Chuck and Eric

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Two AmeriCorps friends from Left: Intefada, MaryLynn, and Me

Coming back to the great MD has its own ups and downs. I was excited to see my housemates and hear about their holiday breaks. Some went to see their families or went on vacation, one stayed around the Baltimore area, and we all got back at different times. I was also able to catch up with swing dance friends that I have met within the past four months and make more plans with them for the coming weeks now that I’m back in town. Its easy to fall back into the fun, but more difficult to engage back into this year of discernment and change for yourself. Having been around many people back home who are happy enough to take you as you were slightly makes continuing forward with your year of service a bit of a battle.

As important as it is to take a break from working on your service, and also on yourself, it is equally important to get back into the reason why you began the year in the first place. For me, that reason was to explore my relationship with God and what that could look like in my life. This requires more focus and thought than it would to get a drink with my Buffalo friends, or spend time with my siblings at a family dinner at my parents’ house. But this year is a balance. Among work, service, new friends, old friends, family and self, our year in Episcopal Service Corps is meant to challenge and reward us. Continuing forward into 2017, we all are getting our heads back into the game of ESC MD!

Deep breaths.

So, it’s been a rather intense week for the country. Luckily for ESC-MD, we’ve had the opportunity to escape the noise for a few days and head west to Bishop Claggett Center for our Fall Retreat. Here we’ve met up with our cohorts from Washington, D.C. and New York City (spoiler alert: they’re really cool) to study how call and vocation relate to the role money plays in our lives. I won’t lie, after the last few days, it’s been very nice to inhabit a space that isn’t quite as chaotic as living in the heart of Baltimore can be.

Talking to our peers, I have seen that a lot of us are overwhelmed, frustrated, and nervous at everything that’s going on in our country and in our world. It’s difficult not to be. As young adult activists and social servants, our futures have suddenly become a lot less certain. As we take these few days to reflect, it is my hope that we can clear out some of the mental and emotional baggage from the past few weeks and months, and return to our cities fully present and ready for whatever the future has in store for us.

Anyway, Lynnea will be posting a photo blog with much nicer photos from the weekend, but I thought I’d share a few quick snaps I’ve taken over the last few days as well!

Because two Whitneys are better than one.

Because two Whitneys are better than one.

 

It's like, really pretty here.

It’s like, really pretty here.

Really, really pretty.

Really, really pretty.

On Friday afternoon we took a walk together to the slave graveyard, the final stop on the Trail of Souls.

On Friday afternoon we took a walk together to the slave graveyard, the final stop on the Trail of Souls.

We found Bishop Sutton!

We found Bishop Sutton!

Is this place even real?

This is pretty on-brand for us.

This is pretty on-brand for us.

As my eyes have opened….

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Baltimore as a city, is one, just like any other city, has its sides. One side is the one that every person sees, the other is the lesser know side, the everyday people, the normal life. Since being here, I have been able to experience that side of it.

My name is Lynnea Johnson. I am one of the Gileads of the 2016-17 year. I am originally from Kansas, but have lived all over. I went to school at the University of Central Missouri and received my Bachelors Degree in International Studies. Currently here in Baltimore I am working at Project PLASE.

Project PLASE is a homeless shelter here in Baltimore. We serve all types of people from all walks of life. Since I have started to work here, I have had my eyes opened to so many different experiences. One major thing that has changed is the way that I look at homeless people. For me, before working here, I was one to just think that the only homeless people are the ones that you see begging on the street. But that is not the case. Some of these people that I have met here, you would never guess by just looking at them that they were homeless.

This experience so far has opened my eyes to so much more than that though, so much that I can’t even put into words. But one thing that is important to remember is to never judge a person by what they look like, or how they act. You never know what they may be going through.

I am very excited for the rest of this year! I just hope it doesn’t pass by too quickly! Until next time!

Lynnea

Adventures in Cooking

Hey everyone! A central part of ESC life, and really anyone’s life, is eating! And with six busy girls in the house, you can bet cooking is always an adventure.

One of the most interesting parts of cooking is that all six of us are from very different areas, and have different experiences in how we cook and eat. From the East Coast, to the West Coast, Midwest to the South, and all the way from China, we lovely ladies have all grown up with our area-specific comfort foods.

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Taco-Stuffed Peppers!

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Grace’s Birthday!

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Onion Tears!

While it can be a challenge for some (a lot of the time, me) to eat “comfort food” like white rice, potatoes, grits, a variety of vegetables, and pasta, it has really been fun to be able to share the foods from our traditions.

One of my favorite ideas that was shared with me in college, is that “everyone has to eat, food is what brings us together”. My professors, peers, and I spent a lot of time cooking and eating!

For our house, this idea has been so true. Not only have we been able to share food, but we have been able to share stories of what this food means to us, our families, and create new memories both in the kitchen and over the dinner table.

City Life

It has been one and a half months since I arrived in Baltimore in the end of August and life has never been so different. When I was living in the well-protected college environment and driving to places, I did not know how different the world can be outside my comfort zone. I never go to the communities where people told me that are “dangerous”; I never talk to any stranger on the street, especially those homeless people who ask for money or food. There are times that I really wanted to help them, but hesitated to do so. Then I came to Baltimore living in the center of downtown surrounded by museums, business buildings as well as many people who are asking for a meal or a place to stay for a night.

The past week was rainy, cold and made people easy to get upset and disappointed. I felt bad when I was walking in the rain with wet shoes trying to catch up a bus to work. I saw two kids waiting at the bus station as well and they were just happy, at least happier than me. I observed them for a while and the little girl turned to me and we smiled at each other. Kids are always happy. They have not gotten into the adult world, the complexed one, the easy to get upset one. As the bus filled with these “unhappy” adults, I felt hard to breathe. Then, a lady said this loudly before she got off the bus “you all have a blessed day!” Something changed at that moment and even the annoying rain can not stop us being happy and hopeful for a new day.

I ran to inner harbor the other day and that was the best time of the week. When there was fewer tourists and more local people, I felt like being part of the daily routine Baltimore life. You can always live in a busy city while keep a quiet place in your heart where you can have some self reflections, recall old memories with families and friends, or maybe just daydreaming.

Even though I am still considered new to Baltimore, I think I am getting used to the rhythm here, working hard towards my goals while spending a lazy afternoon on a bench near the harbor. No matter what we all have been through, if we can pick ourselves up and move forward, the city will always welcome us like when we first arrived.

I wish all of us can find our own harbor in this beautiful city.

Nice to meet you, Baltimore. Let us have an awesome and meaningful year together:)
inner harborwaiting for the bus in the rain

Tunnels and Things

If you had told me a few months ago that I would be crawling around in tunnels in old church basements I would have laughed at you. I came into this year with a vague understanding of my worksite, that I would be working with different groups and helping them with research and social media. To me that meant something like connecting with people and dealing more with the communications end of things. In a way that is what I am doing, but there is so much more to it!

I am interning at the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland Diocesan Center, where I work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, The Maryland Episcopal Environmental Partners, and the Maryland Episcopal Public Policy Network. One of my jobs so far has been to assist the Research and Pilgrimage subcommittee to find some background information into some of the parochial schools in the Diocese. One of these schools is St. Timothy’s, which lead me down a long rabbit hole into the history of not only the school, but the church it used to be attached to.

The former St. Timothy’s Church in Catonsville, now known as St. Hilda’s, had an interesting history in terms of slavery and the Civil War. The church was founded in 1844, in a small community  that was surrounded in large by farms and summer estates. The church was patroned by John Glenn. He was a district court judge and a southern sympathizer.

St. Timothy’s also owned a school adjacent to the church. It began as St Timothy’s Hall, a military church school started by the first rector Libertus Van Bokkelen. There it educated John Wilkes Booth from 1852-1853. Booth was baptized at St Timothy’s and kept in contact with Van Bokkelen, referring to him as “his old rector”. The students at the school were mainly southern supporters and would rebel against Van Bokkelen. Van Bokkelen on the other hand was a firm abolitionist. This is where things get interesting, because despite the parish’s southern leanings, it is possible that the church itself may have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. The rector of the church had informed us of a tunnel underneath the church that lead towards the rectory. The tunnel, on top of the history, caught our attention and we made plans to check it out.

A group of us from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission walked through the grounds and all through the other buildings first to check out the property and get a feel for the place. We checked boiler rooms and hatches that lead to pipes, looking for signs of a tunnel. Then we came to the sanctuary. There we paused our search of the tunnel to admire the beauty of the sanctuary. The old stain glass windows and ornate altar were awe-inspiring in themselves, but what really struck me was the sheer history of the building. The pews in naive are the original pews placed in the church almost 200 years ago, minus a few that had been removed or altered for sound equipment. It is incredible to think that people have been worshiping in this place for that long. It is also incredible to think about how much we have changed as a society since then.

I was struck again by this feeling as we ventured down into the undercroft and finally found our tunnel. I climbed back as far as I could, and could see that the tunnel stretched on beyond me. Again I was reminded that they did not have the convenience of modern day technology. The only things they had to build that tunnel were shovels and determination. It was by sheer willpower that they made that tunnel exist. And in doing so they may have saved countless lives and helped to change the course of human history.

Down in that basement you could also see where the church has been expanded, where it grew to fill the need of an ever-growing parish. You can see where stones have been replaced and where brick and cement were added later to help stabilize the structure. To me this patchwork of construction is a reminder that the church is a living body that grows and expands as we have need of it. We also grow in ways that help change the world. From our base we can create offshoots, like a simple tunnel, that even though they may seem small or insignificant, can change the course of human history. It was so humbling to be down there among the stones and the dirt and to really understand what we are called to do as Christians. There is a banner on the back of a church that I pass on my way to work that really says it all: “Love God, Love your Neighbor, Change the World”.

John Wilkes Booth's record of baptism in the parish register

John Wilkes Booth’s record of baptism in the parish register

The tunnel under the church.

The tunnel under the church.

Started from the Hunt, Now We’re Here

Welcome to the first blog post by the Gileads of 2016-17! To introduce myself, my name is Grace Santandreu from Buffalo, NY. I spent the past year as an AmeriCorps member after graduating college from the University of Dayton in Ohio. I studied Psychology for my undergrad and was hoping that my year in AmeriCorps would steer me towards a Master’s program to become a School Psychologist or School Counselor. After spending a year in the Buffalo Public School System as a 7th grade mentor, I decided the school environment was not for me.

Two of my close college friends had spent a year with the Episcopal Service Corps either during a gap year from school or right after graduation. I was able to visit both of them in their new cities, with their new housemates. The impression I got from their experience was that it would be fun, yet challenging, to live in an intentional community. Your patience would be tested, your communication styles would be broadened, and your support system will automatically grow with those people experiencing similar highs and lows as you start this journey together.

So far, we have had two weeks of orientation as well as two weeks at our new job sites. I was most excited about the scavenger hunt as it got us out and about around Baltimore. Check out these gems from the different places we visited!

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Capturing the Thinker at the Baltimore Museum of Art

Gileads at the Walters 2016-2

Holding hands with the hand-less at the Walter’s Museum

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Stopping for a brew and a pic at Ceremony Coffee

 

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Tracking down the 2-story FLAMINGO at Cafe Hon in Hampden

In the way of job sites, I have the opportunity to be the new Program Assistant and Volunteer Coordinator at Great Kids Farm! This farm caters to the Baltimore City Public schools as they come to visit the farm during the warmer months, or we go to their schools during the off season. They are able to learn about where their food comes from, how healthy eating and healthy living are dependent on each other, and tie in different areas of classwork such as relating their Science lessons to the real world. We also grow food that can be brought into their cafeterias so they can have tasty, healthy food throughout the school day.

I’ve never worked on a farm before, but so far its been one of the best jobs I’ve had!

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First time at Great Kids Farm

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Follow Great Kids Farm on Instagram!…please do…this is part of my job 🙂

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Toast and Frankie! They come right up to the gate when you want some goat lovin!

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Building a Low Tunnel for a Professional Development: Season Extension demo with Baltimore Public School teachers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Microgreens grown in our greenhouse, then harvested, packaged and processed by culinary high school seniors at both Carver and Forrest Park as ABC 2 News rolled the cameras!

Thanks for tuning in!

More to come from the other Gileads soon enough 🙂

Making Change with Community

jubilee tree

A lot of my conversations lately have been about volunteering. At our last ESC meeting, we discussed how volunteering without thinking can lead to unintended consequences–everything from building something poorly to re-instituting a neo-colonialist, patriarchal cycle of control and dependence (wowza). In my time at ESC, I’ve learned more and more how to be patient as a volunteer, with volunteers, and in the process of creating change in the city I love.

Sometimes, work is work–at the end of the day, I realized I didn’t really step outside the office, and I stared at spreadsheets and answered emails. These days can seem cumbersome, but there are moments when I realize all of the work made real products. At the Baltimore Orchard Project (BOP), we’ve been making pompoms to decorate the trees so people know that orchards are loved and cared for. That past few months have been filled with pompom-crazed days–volunteers have made pompoms, kids have made pompoms (even though their tiny hands and poor hand-eye coordination elongate the process), and many trees have been successfully pomed. On Saturday at the BMore Healthy Expo, my co-worker Karyn and I had people of all ages stopping by to make pompoms. It was exhausting–untangling yarn, trying to listen to many children at once, talking to parents who are losing their patience. By the end of the day, we were exhausted and realized some people just took the pompoms home with them even though they were supposed to put them on the tree we somehow had gotten into the convention center. It was one of those tiring days where we wondered how much are we really doing?

WELL, on Tuesday at the Jubilee Arts Center where Karyn leads the Garden Art Class, we were outside making signs for the trees in the orchard. Some kids were not paying attention and throwing the football around and running into each other. Again, one of those days where we wondered what are we doing? BUT, a woman stopped by. She past us, turned her car around, and parked right up to the orchard and said, “Hey, are you the pompom ladies?” and we replied “Why yes!” She had seen the pompoms on the trees at Jubilee and noticed they were the same pompoms she had made with her kids at the Expo. After her and Karyn had a long conversation, she decided to bring her kids to Jubilee. Now Jubilee has more students and BOP has more kids to teach about the wonderful world of fruit trees. With patience, time, and love, Karyn and I realized all of that hard work does lead to good change.