Director of Service-Learning
Office of Service-Learning
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
New York: Spring Break 11
We got the full urban experience of Brooklyn, New York by living and working in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. While there, we worked with a wonderful organization called St. John's Bread & life. This soup kitchen/ food pantry is owned by St. John's University in nearby Queens. Breakfast and lunch are available everyday for hungry New Yorkers. However, they do more than just serve food; they offer to help people with filling out tax forms and food stamp applications along with many other services. An interesting fact about this organization is that they are funded by donations and they do not hold food drives.
We started our day with the organization at 8:30 in the morning, while the staff started their day at 5:30 am. Once there, we broke into two groups; some people went into the food pantry and the rest of us reported to the kitchen. The food pantry group sorted boxes of donations and filled food orders; something unique to this organization is that the clients have the opportunity to choose the food that they want. This way less food and resources are wasted. The group that worked in the soup kitchen reported for duty just in time to help the kitchen staff clean up after breakfast and start preparing for lunch. There were multiple jobs that one could choose from in the kitchen. Each of us had a turn at serving lunch, preparing the meals, washing dishes, and cleaning up at the end of the day; which was 1:30 in the afternoon. All of us also had the opportunity to sit down and eat lunch with the clients that were there for lunch.
Since our service ended so early on in the day, we had the opportunity to explore New York City in our down time. We were fortunate enough to experience not only the touristy parts of the city, but also the cultural neighborhoods. By the end of our trip, we all became masters at navigating the city and the subway system (which is a trip within itself). Throughout the week, the group I went with formed a tight bond and we are still hanging out even though our week of service is complete. Even though it was only eight days, the trip made a lasting impression on not only ourselves, but staff we worked with. On our last day, the coordinator was crying and thanking us profusely as we walked out of the door. Even some of the most surely looking staff members told us that "we brought out the kids in them" and that "we made them enjoy their work again." My whole group was deeply touched when one of the workers said that to us. Overall, the trip was extremely humbling and life changing.