Notes from the Field includes reports from young people volunteering in ministries of Catholic sisters. A partnership with Catholic Volunteer Network, the project began in the summer of 2015. This is our sixth round of bloggers: Natalia Liviero is a volunteer with VIDES+USA serving in the Middle East, and Janie Rosko is a Humility of Mary volunteer serving within the Ursuline Ministries in Youngstown, Ohio.
Monday, Nov. 27, was not a typical service day for me.
I was running late to go to the Beatitude House on the north side of Youngstown, headquarters of the Ursuline Sisters Scholars program, which pairs first-time and/or low-income college students with a mentor who is or was in the student's field of study. The students must work part-time and maintain good grades to continue qualifying for the program. They are also given assistance with transportation and clothing, if needed.
Usually, I help Maraline Kubik, the director of the program, on Monday mornings. However, that morning, one of my tires was dangerously low and, because of the circumstances, I could not fill it up. The people I normally would turn to for help in these situations were all tied up.
Fortunately, Maraline was able to pick me up. She drove a light-brown Beatitude House vehicle that had a number of boxes filled with kitchen supplies, including dishes and utensils, along with cleaning supplies, a few lamps and a vacuum cleaner. We unpacked everything at a grateful client's new apartment connected to the YWCA building in Youngstown. Gradually, the client will receive help transporting other furniture into his new apartment. (The YWCA offers subsidized, permanent supportive housing for individuals who are eligible through their income levels, and other agencies, such as Beatitude House, might contact them for help housing qualifying individuals.)
After unpacking, Maraline and I went to the Beatitude House on the north side, where I organized some clothes and food designated for participants within the Beatitude House programs.
Afterward, I contacted Samantha Williams, another Humility of Mary AmeriCorps member. I officially canceled our mentoring program for the day, since we would not be able to get another vehicle. On Mondays, we typically mentor two second-graders through the Immigrant Outreach Program: I tutor Lusila, and she tutors Stefanie. I knew I could work on some planning and writing that day and could afford losing some hours, so I was not too worried.
After helping at the Beatitude House on the north side, I decided to walk from there to the main library of Youngstown. This walk takes about 20 to 30 minutes, but I broke it up by getting lunch at Taco Bell. Thankfully, it was an unusually warm November day, so the weather was comfortable. Even though 20 to 30 minutes is not that long to walk someplace once, it can be if a person has no other options and must do it regularly.
A number of individuals and families served by Ursuline Ministries walk around town, undeterred by the weather. They must be physically strong to endure walking, but they especially must be emotionally and mentally strong to deal with other issues, such as a disability or financial difficulty. The people of Youngstown are doing a wonderful job bringing light to these issues, for instance, through the Homeless Awareness Walk.
I write this a week after my walk to the library. Today, I began the morning at the north side Beatitude House, where I mostly wrapped gifts for students and participants of the Ursuline Sisters Scholars program. Because it is the holiday season, I will be preparing gifts for the Immigrant Outreach families and some families served through the HIV/AIDS ministry.
Because it is the holiday season, it is also Giving Tree season. Various organizations, often churches, allow other organizations, such as Beatitude House, to decorate a tree with paper ornaments with gift requests for clients written on them. People come together and donate time, money and talent to people in need. The Ursuline organizations that collect gifts are thankful, and the people who receive the gifts are especially grateful.
The people served through the Ursuline ministries also express gratitude for the services we provide throughout the year. Recently, Samantha and I brought Lusila and Stefanie to the library; they were excited to be there. Holiday books and decorations were scattered throughout the library. Most places throughout Youngstown give off some sort of holiday spirit around this time of year, including the various ministry locations.
While we were at the library, Lusila and I worked on her homework for a while before reading. We walked around both the fiction and nonfiction sections, searching for the perfect books to read. We read several fiction books, and I also read her a book about Elizabeth Blackwell. The possibility of Blackwell's acceptance into a medical school was mistaken for a joke, but one she made sure to take advantage of. She worked and studied hard to became the first woman in the United States to earn a medical degree.
I asked Lusila questions to engage her critical-thinking skills about Blackwell's story. We discussed how strange it is to think that someone could not or should not work toward their dream just because they are a woman or man. I tried to get her to think about ways that the people within the story could have been more helpful to Blackwell.
It certainly is wonderful seeing people come together around the holidays, but it is important for us to stay simple, humble and grateful in our ways all year long. Just because I have been wrapping gifts for families more often this time of year does not mean they do not need or desire gifts or services other times. I should not help a person in need one day and then forget their needs the next day. It is essential not to dwell on negativity but be aware of the lives and challenges each person may face.
[Janie Rosko is a Humility of Mary volunteer serving within the Ursuline ministries in Youngstown, Ohio.]