Spring Break at the Mission Outpost

 In Out

Each spring, college students all around the country spend their spring break in the Alternate Spring Break (ASB) program. Instead of traveling to party, they travel to serve their neighbors. This year, a group of students from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point came to the Twin Cities, in part to serve at our Mission Outpost. The following is an excerpt from a blog post Amy Vida wrote about her experience here.

Although Spring Break ended nearly two weeks ago, it’s only now that I’ve made the time to write about what I did with mine. I mean, sure, a good deal of it was still wasted on Netflix and my Harry Potter re-read marathon—but the first half-week of it was spent someplace much more productive. This year, I worked with the UW-Stevens Point Student Involvement and Employment Office to be a part of the Alternate Spring Break program. I traveled with a near dozen UWSP students to Minneapolis for some service learning through a group called Urban Immersion. The subtopic of this year’s ASB was poverty and homelessness; the nonprofit organizations we were linked up with focused on different facets of this issue, and through service there as well as reflection at the Urban Immersion center we learned more about poverty and homelessness as complex social issues.

Over three days, we were sent to lend our hands to two different organizations: the Prince of Peace Mission Outpost food shelf and a large-scale furniture bank called Bridging.

Prince of Peace is a large Lutheran church whose Mission Outpost serves the seven city area surrounding the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Outpost itself is located in Burnsville, and it is GIGANTIC. My area of specialization in Family & Consumer Sciences is food and nutrition, so my natural inclination was to be super-duper excited when I heard that we were going to volunteer at a very large food shelf. I couldn’t have guessed how emotionally touched I would be—I remember tearing up during the initial tour of the facilities and basically staying a half-breath away from crying for the next four hours.

Being a volunteer at UWSP’s itty-bitty Cupboard, I was totally unprepared for what I saw there. The place is absolutely immense, and what’s more it offers a range of services beyond what I’ve ever seen in person as a kind of entry-level volunteer. The area of nonperishable foods is more than three times the size of the entire Cupboard at Point. Prince of Peace is also set up and able to dispense perishable goods such as fresh eggs, yogurt, and meat to those who come in. But that wasn’t even the end of it—through support from the Salvation Army and partnership with a lot of corporate and local businesses, Prince of Peace is also able to provide fresh breads and bread products, vegetables, fruits, deli items, and greens to the families it serves. On a monthly basis, a family referred to Prince of Peace receives a good quantity of fresh and canned foods, and on a quarterly basis they can receive housing and clothing items as well. Each time they visit, an individual or family sits down with a volunteer who looks after how they’re doing and is trained to refer them to other community services.

Part of the Prince of Peace’s objective is to see that every family is cared for, not just served. It seems that they’re on to something as well: the gratitude of those who used this service during my time helping to fill orders in the food shelf area was stunning. The sheer number of volunteers, most all of them regular weekly fixtures of the place, was beyond belief. While I was there forty or so families were served. Pat, the site manager, said that that was a pretty slow Monday and that frequently twice as many families will come through during their hours of operation. Getting to know the individuals serving, to work amongst them and speak to them, and to see the impact their generosity had on so many lives was just about magical.

I do not hesitate to say that I have never felt as if I’ve spent three days more meaningfully in my life, and I cannot emphasize enough how worthwhile the opportunity is to take a vacation and spend even just a portion of it in service. I could have spent a hundred hours in a classroom learning about poverty and homelessness before and still called that time wasted after having been amongst the strife and the service of its reality even for just three short days. I beseech each and every one of the four people who read this blog to find a doorway to such an experience wherever possible. If SIEO is available to you next year, I implore you to think long and hard about the next Alternative Spring Break. It was completely unreal, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Amy Vida is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point majoring in family & consumer sciences and English.

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