by Kristen Hasse, Messiah College student and Alternative Spring Break volunteer
Serving with Catholic Charities this past week was an amazing experience! All of the programs that my group and I had the opportunity to volunteer at represented the mission and vision of Catholic Charities unequivocally. To see the dedication of both the staff and community volunteers, many of whom had been with Catholic Charities for some time, made me hopeful for the future of Baltimore.
At each one of these organizations, guests were treated with dignity, respect, and love. Whether it came in the form of addressing an individual by his or her name or providing them with a restaurant-style meal experience, all who walked in through the doors of these organizations were seen as what they were: people, each with their own unique story to tell. This is one of the main things that I will take away from this experience.
Every individual that I come into contact with will, at a first glance, be placed into a category. Whether that category is based off race, religion, financial status, or occupation, each will come with its own stereotyped reactions. However, just because someone appears to check all the boxes of a specific category doesn’t mean that they fit the category. It takes initiating a conversation to really get to know someone, to know where they are in life and how they got there.
Another thing that I will take away from this service trip experience is what thankfulness looks like. At many of the places where my group and I volunteered while in Baltimore, we had the opportunity to interact directly with the guests in various capacities. The amount of thanks that we received, whether for serving a plate of food or for providing them with an extra napkin, was a truly humbling experience. Coming from a middle-class family, there are many things in life whose availability I have never had to question. However, after serving with Catholic Charities, I have come to realize the importance of expressing gratitude for everything I have, both large and small.
Overall, I had a wonderful experience serving with Catholic Charities this past week! To serve with an organization that is committed to improving the lives of those in their city was something that I found to be extremely rewarding. The work that Catholic Charities is doing is commendable and with the amount of support they have from the local community, there is no doubt in my mind that they will continue to impact the lives of those in Baltimore for years to come.