Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Sacramento!

Since my last post, work has had some really stressful days. With it being the holiday season, we are getting a lot of donations (which is great!). All of these donations mean extra traffic on North C Street (where Loaves and Fishes is). This traffic just makes work seem busier even though I rarely deal with the donations. The holiday season is either excellent or very hardening on our guests though. I think this is the hardest part. Some are in really high spirits, and others are depressed that they have no where better to go during this season. That being said, some of the Scrooges have caused some ruckus at the Park in the last couple weeks.

With all of that said, Christmas has been excellent to me out here. Yesterday my roommate Nicole and I went to church with our boss Garren and his wife Linda. They go to the church that has our Monday morning volunteers as 2 of its pastors, so we got to see Brennan and Mark and their families last night as well. Then after service, Nicole & I got to go to Christmas Eve dinner at Garren & Linda's daughter Kim's house. It was a wonderful Christmas dinner. We met the family and enjoyed the food and company. Then we left early so we could get home in time to head to the Cathedral for mass. The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is always gorgeous, but last night it was even more beautiful. I think the beauty was in the fact that it was the first time that I'd been there that it didn't feel empty. It's a very large building, and the middle pews are usually the only ones full, but last night the side ones were filling up as well.

Then this morning, I woke up and went downstairs by our tree to get ready to skype home and celebrate (as much as I could) with my family. Nicole was already up making biscuits and gravy. So around 7am Pacific time, I was able to skype the family and open presents together. I got a lot of great gifts, and way more gifts than I'd expected. Then I had to say goodbye so I could eat some biscuits and gravy before heading into work.

I was not looking forward to working on Christmas. I was trying to pretend that I'd enjoy it, but I really enjoy just being lazy around a house all day on Christmas and spending time with family. Today, work reminded me how much everyone at Loaves is a family. It was beautiful! There were many little miracles all around. The biggest miracle I saw today happened while I was on the street talking to Jose. It was my first time to really talk to him, and I enjoyed our conversation. At one point during our conversation, and older Hispanic man came up to ask where Jose got the sleeping pad he was holding. Jose told him that he'd gotten it from SafeHaven, but that there were no more. Then he saw the man look a little down, and Jose asked if he needed one. When the man said yes, Jose handed the man his sleeping pad. To me, that was such a grand gesture for one man sleeping on the ground to make to another. It was a beautiful day at work. Everyone was saying "Merry Christmas" or "Feliz Navidad". We had no fights. No one had to be kicked out. It was amnesty day, so even those who are 86'd were able to join us for the day. It was truly beautiful.

Tonight, Nicole and I are having Christmas Dinner with the founders of Loaves and Fishes. It's nice to know that even though I'm a couple thousand miles from home, I still have family out here and I'm not alone on the holidays. I hope that your Christmas has been as wonderful as mine!

Feliz Navidad!


Friday, December 2, 2011

Miracles During The Holiday Season

After a much needed break back home for Thanksgiving, I have found myself more enthusiastic about work. My first full day back was yesterday.

Before I left for Kansas, Loman (a middle-aged guest) asked me to bring him something back from home. I agreed to, but then couldn't find anything that I thought he could actually use that also showed it was from Kansas. On our drive West, we stopped at a gas station. I knew that a gas station would have a postcard, or snow globe, or something Kansas. Then I saw a KU beanie. It's becoming winter, so I KNEW that Loman could use a beanie. I picked it up for him and then continued the drive, hoping he wasn't a K-State fan. Anyways, so yesterday at work, I was about to head to lunch and saw Loman sitting on his bench. I went into the office, put the beanie in my pocket, and went to sit and talk with him and wait a bit longer before I took lunch. When I gave Loman the beanie, his face lit up and he gave me a big hug. I never expected that a beanie for a team that I guarantee he could care less about would make him so happy. It made my day just to know that such a simple gesture can go so far. He put it on right away, and I haven't seen him without it on since. It really touched my heart just to see someone so happy.

Oh, we also had a horseshoe tournament at the park yesterday. It was fantastic! I helped Green Hat Tim run it even though I didn't know much at all about horseshoes. We had an odd number of guests, so I teamed up with one of them to make sure he could play too. It was great to see 15 guests pair up in teams and compete. Everyone had a great time watching and playing. It really was a miracle to just see so much joy in the park yesterday.

Then we have today. As you may or may not know, I'm not an activist. I don't feel comfortable at protests, and I just don't enjoy feeling uncomfortable. Well, today, SafeGround was holding a press conference to bring attention to the fact that they've been herded along the river, and now the police are trying to evict them from the last place they had to go. My boss really wanted me to go to the press conference with him, but I kept trying to think of ways to get out of it. Eventually he reminded me that Social Justice is one of the pillars of JVC, so I decided to go even though I'd feel uncomfortable. We got to SafeGround, and I walked along the bike path with Green Hat Jackie to see what the camping area looked like. It was amazing to finally see where so many of my friends/guests live. After walking along the bike path, we came down from the levee and started talking to some of our friends.

I talked to this young man Michael. He's 23 and has been hitchhiking for the past 9 months. He's originally from Georgia. He was telling me what it's like to live at SafeGround, especially with the weather conditions that sometimes occur (like our recent extremely windy days). The thing that touched me the most during our conversation wasn't that he's only a year older than me and homeless. It was that he keeps in touch with his parents and can go back to Georgia whenever he pleases, but that he doesn't want to leave until the SafeGround issues are solved for his friends. I'd never really gotten to talk to Michael much, he usually just stops by the park for a short period (which I found out is because he has a dog, Slayer, that isn't fixed and, therefore, can't go in our kennel). I remember the first day I remembered his name, the shock and happiness on his face. Through my conversation with Michael today, I learned so much more about him than I ever had at the park. I couldn't believe that he could go home at any time, but he would prefer to be homeless and stand up with his friends that he's only known for a month or two. Michael gained a lot of respect from me today. It's hard to stand up for something you believe in when you're in a good situation. When standing up for what you believe in puts you in a bad situation, well I know it's not something I could ever do. Michael showed me the strength of real friendship. I will always thank Michael for that.

I hope that during this holiday season, we can all be more like Loman, the horseshoe players, and Michael. Let us appreciate the little things, the time with each other, and our friends. Every person has a lot to appreciate. If anyone can teach you to appreciate life, it's the homeless. Stop and talk to one. Ask him/her their name. Smile and don't look put-off by them. Some of the nicest people in this world don't have a roof to sleep under. One may be living in your neighborhood. Please, take the time to say hello.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Loaves Thanksgiving

I apologize for taking so long to update. It's so easy to get caught up in life. I come back to my blog on Loaves & Fishes' Thanksgiving. I realize Thanksgiving is still 2 days away, but Loaves celebrates the Tuesday before due to the abundance of Thanksgiving dinners offered in Sacramento. Thanksgiving was the first main holiday that I was able to see celebrated at Loaves and Fishes (I was sick on Halloween, but it also wasn't as big of a celebration).

Today we fed 1,052 guests, as well as the staff of Loaves and Fishes. That is an extremely large number, but I don't think of that as the miracle I saw today. The miracle could be the homeless guests enjoying the music of the blues band playing on our deck throughout the day. Seeing a crowd around the deck and watching people dance around and have a great time. The miracle might be all of the volunteers who came to help us today rather than spend a day at work or with their families. Maybe the miracle was the line of stocking caps, gloves, scarfs, etc. waiting for the guests as the exited lunch. It could even be as simple as seeing one of the guests that used to come every day but hadn't been at the park in at least 2 weeks.

Sure, there were people that got kicked out of the park today. Some for disrespecting staff and trying to start fights. Others for bringing drugs and alcohol into our drug free environment. The few that tried to cause trouble could not succeed in bringing down everyone's day. There were too many people and too much love for 4 or 5 people to ruin the day. It was a beautiful day at Friendship Park. It was neither too cold nor too hot. The trees are in their fall colors and looking gorgeous in the blue sky. Most importantly, you can just feel the love in the air. It's definitely the holiday season. You can feel it without snow on the ground, hot chocolate in your hand, and your immediate family around. The guests are each others' families. Loaves and Fishes is a beautiful and unique organization. It's somewhere that you have to visit to understand, and then you have to reflect to realize how beautiful of a place it truly is. I'm sure that I've already mentioned this in a previous post, but back in September, we had a carnival at the park celebrating it's 20th anniversary. At the carnival, I'd made cotton candy all day (which was a big hit, the guests love their sugar). The director of Loaves and Fishes, Sister Libby, mentioned to Garren and Jim (my bosses) that we were in the "Kingdom of Heaven." On days like today, and the carnival, I realize how much I believe her statement.

Pies being cut for Thanksgiving Dinner. (Pumpkin, Pecan, & Apple)

Donations of socks and underwear from the First Responders.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Growing Stronger

Today, I've realized how strong I've become in the 2 months since I began working at Friendship Park. The first couple of days, I tried to tag along with someone else, and would talk to people that the staff would introduce me to. I just kept going back to them as safety nets. I didn't want to work the ticket window because I didn't want everyone to be mad at me for taking so long. I didn't hide, but I was usually worried. When I saw my first fight, I was so flustered. I had to go into the office and just sit there for a bit.

This morning started off with Molly and I needing to choose between working the ticket window when we opened or sugar. I gladly volunteered for the ticket window and let Molly go do sugar. Then on one of my morning breaks, I went and talked with one of the guests, Charles. I'd remembered his name for a while at the ticket window, but I hadn't had a real conversation with him yet. I talked to him until 5 til 11am. Then, I went back to the ticket window, where I worked while the first group went to lunch. At 11:30am, I went to lunch with Molly and the JVC recruiter, Catherine, who was volunteering at the park for the day. The Italian Pasta was delicious!

Upon returning to the park after lunch, I hung out around the service counter talking with Cait who works next door and was taking a break. Then a fight broke out right by where I was (I'm not sure why I'm by so many of the fights), and instead of stepping away and yelling for a green hat, I grabbed one of their bags and pulled him away so that the male green hats could get between them and calm them down. I wasn't really needed, but it felt great to now have that courage rather than running away.

Then I began to play cards (Rummy) with Jackie (fellow employee) and two of the guests, Robert and Anthony. Robert is 94 years old! He was saying that his daughter is turning 74 tomorrow, but I thought he was turning 74. Then later while playing cards, Robert checked his phone and found out he has a new grandson! He's a great guy! I was happy to finally talk to him more. After cards, I went to clean up the service center, grabbed cardboard boxes to take to the dumpster and got stopped by Houston and James. I ended up talking to them until the park closed, and just had a fun time.

It's weird to think how much has changed in just 2 months. Most of which is indescribable. I can't imagine what I'll be like by the end of the year, or even in a little over a month when I go home. This experience keeps me on my toes and changing.

In other news, I've found a sports bar that I'm very fond of, so if you're here on a Sunday during football season, you will probably find me there watching all of the games. That may be where I watch the World Series at as well. I still play frisbee every Saturday morning, but I also joined a league team on Wednesdays. We've won our first two games, but will evidently be up against a very tough team soon.

I hope all is well on your end, wherever you are!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Patricia's Hope

Yesterday morning, I was working at the lunch ticket line virtually all morning. I've begun to learn many of the guests names, so I used the day as a challenge to remember as many as I possibly could since I was giving basically everyone their lunch tickets. Probably around 10am when the line had been calm for a while, a woman that I love came up to the window. I typed Patricia's name into the computer and asked her how she was doing. There wasn't a line, so we could talk, but I expected what I got from most guests, "Fine, how are you?". Instead, Patricia surprised me. Patricia began to tell me her tale of woes from the day. She was staying at a shelter, and the shelter had let her family know she was there. At first, I was confused as to why one wouldn't want her family to know where she is if they're wanting to help. Then, I continued to listen to Patricia. I found out that when she'd needed her family the most, they were not there. They're coming back into her life when she's getting better and figuring things out on her own. Patricia is afraid that by coming into her life, her family is going to end up disrupting her progress. At this time, a line was forming behind Patricia at the counter, and she had begun to cry. I reached across the counter, patted her on the back with one hand and held her hand with my other. I assured her that she is an amazing woman and that her progress will only stop if she lets it. That if she does not want to be in contact with her family, she does not have to be. I let her know that Loaves & Fishes, Friendship Park especially, would always be there for her. When I told her that she is part of our family, her eyes lit up, and she began to smile. You could still see the pain in her eyes, but you could see hope too. She cheered up, thanked me for listening, and moved along with her day so that I could also move along with mine. My moment with Patricia yesterday was one of the most touching that I have had so far in my time at the park.

I think that the Bible is right when it says, "So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13. Faith, hope, and love are all things that I think I took for granted before this year. I have always been privileged enough to just know they're there. I would experience them every now and then, but I never really thought about the affect that faith, hope, and love have on our lives. Throughout the past month and a half, I've learned that being able to show guests that I have faith in them, gives them hope, and gives us mutual love and respect for each other. The hope that I saw in Patricia's eyes was enough to reassure me that God does exist in every one of us.

I sometimes think about the 4th of July when one of my cousins asked me why I was moving across the country to make no money and help people I don't know. I remember not having an answer for him at the time, but the longer I'm here, the more reasons I keep coming up with. Right now, my answer would be that I was lucky enough to have been born into a loving family, and now it is my time to share the love that has been passed onto me with others. Strangers are only strangers until you exchange greetings. Introduce yourself, and now they're an acquaintance, moving towards a deeper relationship/friendship. I have many friends throughout the country, and I can't imagine having done anything other than make hundreds of friends at Friendship Park this year.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Day Working in Friendship Park

This morning, I woke up at 6:15am. I rolled out of bed and changed into capris and an XL Loaves & Fishes t-shirt. Finished getting ready, and started the walk to Friendship Park with 2 of my roommates.

We arrived at the park a little late (6:50am) and finished setting up the service center. Then the staff circled up for morning prayer. The clock then turned to 7am and we opened to gates to the public. I was working the lunch ticket line this morning. There were a surprising number of people that had never been to Loaves and Fishes before in line this morning, but the computer put-putted along while I entered names and clicked them so that we would know they'd received a lunch ticket. At one point, one of the guests came up and started spelling his last name for me. I told him that I already had him covered, and he was shocked! He said that in the 6 months he's been coming, no one could remember his name/how to spell it. Seeing the joy when I can remember someone's name is one of the favorite parts of my day. Last week, I remembered one of the other guests names, and he had the same reaction. I love being able to get that reaction because I think it makes them feel like somebody really cares, and that they're not just another lunch ticket.

A little later, I entered a guest into the computer and smiled, said "Have a great day!" He looked back at me and said "Smile again." I did. He then said "You have a beautiful smile, I'd buy you McDonald's every day." (Thank you mom & dad for getting me braces!) It was really sweet, yet sad that to all of my friends in the park, McDonald's is classy.

Then, it was almost 11am, and I was talking to two of the guests. They were asking me how I picked Sacramento/Loaves and Fishes, so I was trying to explain the process when another guest came up with a question. They allowed me to help him, and while I was looking for the answer he wanted, yet another guest came up to me hollering that someone was having a seizure. I had to leave the two men I was talking to, the man that I was trying to answer a question for, and hurry out of the park to the nearby alley along 12th Street to help a woman having a seizure.

When I arrived, another green hat was already there. I stayed to help him keep people away from her and direct the paramedics where they needed to go. One of the street monitor green hats came and was on the phone with 9-1-1 when he arrived by us. He didn't know the woman's name or anything, so he had to pass the phone over to me so that I could answer the few questions that I knew the answer to. After I'm done talking to 9-1-1, he leaves and goes back to monitoring the street. A woman on her way to mass was walking down the alley way and stopped and prayed for our guest until the paramedics arrived. She seemed like one of those people that tries to push their religion on others, but I really think she was the angel looking over this lady. Right before the woman left, our guest started slowly waking up from her seizure. Then the paramedics arrived, and I told them what I knew while two other green hats stopped traffic through the alley way. Once I'd told the paramedics all I knew, one of the green hats told me I could leave and go to lunch.

I then returned to the Park, answered the question that the one man had been asking me, apologized to the two men I'd had to leave in mid-conversation, and grabbed my water bottle to head to lunch. Today, lunch was chili dogs, corn/vegetable medley, potato wedges, pears, and chocolate chip cookies. It was tasty, but very filling. It was very nice to get that break right after dealing with a seizure though.

After lunch, I returned to the service counter and worked the service counter side for a bit. Then the other volunteers returned, and we were closing the ticket window (it closes at 12:45pm, lunch ends at 1pm). So I put the window up and locked it. Then I started stamping tickets for next week in the chair by the computer while our Wednesday volunteers worked the service counter.

At 2pm, we did JV trivia, and today, the questions were easy enough that we didn't have to find new ones to ask. The park is only opened for 45 minutes after JV trivia, so I was busy getting things ready for close. I emptied the garbage from behind the service counter, finished stamping a stack of tickets, and then closed the service counter at 2:30pm and helped my co-workers lock the cabinets and put things away. After the park closed at 2:45pm, we had a short staff meeting where I told my highlight of being told I have a beautiful smile. Our boss mentioned that someone had sneaked their dog into the park and it'd had babies there today. Then around 3pm, we headed home.

Now that I'm home, it's time to start preparing for my roommate Kathleen's birthday. We're having pulled pork, sweet potato fries, green beans, and cake tonight to celebrate! :) I'm excited.

There you have it though, a day in the life of a Jesuit Volunteer at Friendship Park. Every day is different.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Getting Busier

I just realized that it's been 2 weeks since I last posted. I'm going to try to become better at updating everyone that reads this. I've felt very busy these past 2 weeks, but I don't think I've actually been too busy. Most nights after work I don't really do anything, but then weekends fly by because I seem to always be doing something.

Last weekend started on Thursday, Sept 8. It was my friend Drew's birthday and we all celebrated him by watching the first game of regular season. Sadly, the Saints lost to the Packers, but I suppose there are worse teams they could lose to... Then my house had Spirituality night on Friday. On Saturday, I played frisbee with Newman, then my ride was playing with other friends too, so I played with them after Newman... After about 4 hours of frisbee, I went home. That evening, we were having a birthday party for Cait at the Mercy Volunteers house (her birthday was on Monday, Sept. 12). Then that Sunday, we had a welcoming BBQ at the MV house. It was a busy weekend.

Work went pretty well this past week. We had 2 FJV's over for dinner on Monday night, then the MV's over for dinner on Tuesday. We had spirituality night on Wednesday, then volunteer orientation for the Women's Empowerment Gala on Thursday. We celebrated Mexican Independence Day on Friday. Went to frisbee on Saturday, but only Newman frisbee. Then I went out to eat with Nick, Laura, and Tyler afterwards. Then met up with my house as they finished eating. Hung out for a bit before leaving for dinner and the Mountain Lions game with Nick. Mountain Lions weren't very good, but it was still fun to go. It felt kind of like a high school/college game. Afterwards, we went to Joe's house, had some delicious homemade ice cream, watched Psych, then headed home. This morning I had a one-on-one with one of our support people which was really nice, and now I'm watching the Raiders lose to Buffalo (barely, it was a close game) and watched the Saints win via NFL Game Center... It's been a good football weekend with Tulane winning 49-10 yesterday! Too bad the Chiefs are HORRIBLE this year.

No good stories have really occurred at work within the past two weeks. This Thursday, there was a SafeGround Jubilee which we marched from Friendship Park to Cesar Chavez Park (where the Jubilee was) in solidarity with the homeless, trying to get them a permanent spot to sleep at night. This is the first winter in a long while in which Sacramento won't have extra emergency shelters for the homeless, so a SafeGround will be especially necessary. It was really amazing to be involved in the jubilee and stand up with the homeless. There have also been 4 seizures at the park this past week. I'm not sure why I hadn't seen a single seizure at the park, then 4 happen in one week, but I suppose that's the park for you.

In other news, I found out that I can take Thanksgiving off, so I'll be flying home (arriving at MCI around 10am on Thanksgiving). I'll get to spend Thanksgiving with the family (so you better all be there!), then I'll be going to Penny's wedding on Saturday (so excited!!! Didn't think I'd be able to make it), seeing everyone at mass on Sunday, then driving Bella (my mazda) back to Cali with mom and dad. I'm so excited to get to go home, even if it's just for a couple days. It'll also be really nice to get a car for our house. It'll be helpful for grocery shopping, and especially for making it to frisbee on Saturdays and mass on Sundays. I can go to the Cathedral, but Newman is more of a community, so I prefer going there.

I hope all is well with each of you. Maybe something exciting will happen this week so that I will remember to update yall. Thanks for all of your support!

God bless,

Saturday, September 3, 2011

60% of the Time, It Works Every Time

Today, the Newman Center at Sacramento State had an ultimate frisbee tournament instead of just playing some pickup games like normal. We got there and they told us what teams we were on (they created the teams so that they'd be fairly even). I was on Team 3 with some of my favorite players and some people I hadn't met before. I was on a team with Alex, Erick, Joe, Clare, Sage, and LT. Erick arrived late, and we were playing Team 4 for the first round robin game. We were behind 3-0 when Erick finally arrived. Their 7th player finally got to start playing, and we finally had Erick. We then ended up winning the game 5-3.
Team 3 continued to work hard and played Team 1 right after, for round 2 of round robin. We took that game 5-2. Then we got a break. by our break, we were the only undefeated team left. On our break, we kept warm and practiced throwing/catching. We also decided that Team 3 wasn't cutting it as a name, so we became the Sex Panthers (60% of the time, it works every time). Break ends and we have to go play Kathleen, Laura, and Justin's team (Team 5). I was really nervous to play their team. Their entire team is really good, so I knew they'd be difficult. We ended up winning 5-3, and guaranteeing our spot in the playoffs. Then we have our final game of round robin against Team 2. We know we'll be in the playoffs, but we decided to work hard and try to remain undefeated. We ended up doing so with another 5-3 (maybe it was 5-4) victory. So everyone got a little break while the playoff teams were determined and we took a picture of everyone playing.
Playoffs ended up being Sex Panthers v. Team 5 and Team 2 v. Team 4. The game against Team 5 was extremely close. We got pretty far behind and had to come back. We ended up making it back to 4-4. Then on universe point, we finally scored and got ahead. So we're exhausted, but we're entering the championship game. Team 2 won on the other field to make the championship game. We're exhausted, but determined to not go home empty handed. We get behind 2-0 and decide to make up a chant to pump us back up. Joe lead, and we did our Sex Panther chant. It seemed like it was going to help at first because we all ran down the field with a lot more energy, but then Team 2 scored and made it 3-0. Finally we scored making it 3-1. We decide that we have to take it 1 point at a time and not worry about winning. Erick bringing up one point at a time, was possibly what got us through the game. It ended up being 4-1, then 5-3. Thank goodness we decided to play to seven. The people leading the tournament asked (when Team 2 scored their 5th point) if we just wanted to end it at 5 instead of playing to 7. All of Sex Panther agreed we couldn't give up, even if they scored 2 right away and beat us, it'd be better than giving up. Then we came back slowly but surely. 5-4... 5-5... and finally we take a lead at 6-5. It was our first lead of the game, and we only needed one more point to win. It seemed like it took forever, but we ended up getting the frisbee to Clare in the end zone to score our 7th point winning us the championship and keeping us undefeated.
It was an awesome experience, but it exhausted me for the day. I really enjoyed playing, and our team was very team oriented, we didn't have just a couple people that we used, we used everyone a lot. I was really nervous about playing the other teams because I knew who all of the all-star players were, and I wasn't sure that we'd been lucky enough to get one. It reminded me that you don't need an all-star on your team when you have communication and teamwork. I really am proud of my team. There were many times that we could've given up, especially in the championship game, but we kept at it like the turtle against the hare. Slow and steady wins the race.

Congratulations Sex Panthers! Hopefully we can defend our title in the Spring!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ups and Downs

After a long day at work, I decided I'd update my blog. I realized that in my last post, I don't think I mentioned too much of what I've been doing for fun out here. I do work more than anything else, but I have time for fun. I don't do much after work on the weekdays because (as of right now) I'm drained by the time work ends. On the weekends, our house tries to find fun things to do. The first weekend we were here, we went to Second Saturdays which is an art thing, and then to Hamburger Patties (a bar that does karaoke on Saturdays).

The second weekend we were here, we went to Old Sacramento. We walked around a little bit, then headed to the Eagle Theatre to go watch some silent movies. They were the first silent movies I ever remember watching. The first one was The Playhouse which stars Buster Keaton (for all of you that don't know, Buster Keaton was born in Piqua, KS). I was extremely excited to finally see my first Buster Keaton film, and I loved it! There were a few films afterwards... None of them were as good to me because they didn't have Buster in them. After the movies, we walked along the American River for a bit, then headed back home.

Old Sacramento

Every Saturday morning, I've played ultimate frisbee with the Newman Center at Sacramento State. So this past weekend, I played frisbee with them that morning. Saturday afternoon, I went thrift store shopping with my fellow JV, Nicole, and the two Mercy Volunteers in Sacramento. I bought some nice baggy clothes for work, some of the most comfortable clothes I've ever worn... Then Sunday, the Newman Center had a welcoming BBQ and mass for the volunteers in Sacramento and the new students at Sac State. I really enjoyed the BBQ and mass at the Newman Center. It was nice seeing all of my frisbee friends in a new setting. This past weekend may have been the most relaxing. My room is almost presentable now. So I should have pictures of it in my next blog post.

Sadly, every weekend has to come to an end. Work on Monday wasn't bad, it was just CRAZY busy. We served over 900 lunches (only the 2nd time in at least 7 years that that's happened). The park was crowded, but we survived. I assumed today would be about the same, but we actually only served around 830 lunches. The difference (and what made today much worse than yesterday) is that moods around the park weren't as high spirited today. Within the first hour, there were 2 physical fights and 1 verbal fight that had to be broken up and the guests were kicked out for certain periods of time. Don't worry, no employees got hurt (and no guests got extremely hurt), but I was still shaken. It was the first time I'd seen a fight at the park, and one of them was right in front of me in the lunch ticket line. The first time that a break was offered to me, I jumped on it and went into the office. I sat in the office for around 30 minutes talking to different staff members. One staff member offered to take me home, but I knew if I didn't stick it out, I wouldn't want to return to work. I toughed it out, and the day became much more cheerful. It was still an exhausting day, and I'd say I'm still a bit shaken and will be on edge for a couple days (especially tomorrow since people won't get paid til the 1st).

Today was the first day that I didn't feel 100% safe at the park. It was the first day that I realized that just because there's a "No Violence" rule and no one had broken it around me in 2 weeks, doesn't mean people don't break the rule. Today was the first day that I realized just how difficult the job really is, especially when some of the key workers are on vacation. It's a hard, yet rewarding job, and I think it'll make for the most interesting and rewarding year of my life.

Until next time,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Friendship Park

Hello again!

Now that I've worked at Friendship Park for about a week and a half, there have been many more stories. At the park, you can't let things carry over from day to day because every day is a new day and you never know what good (or bad) things may have happened to change our friends' lives. It's nice to know that every day is a brand new beginning.

As I said in my last post, I have to be at work by 6:45am every Monday-Friday. I'm not a morning person, but I'm adjusting. Most mornings, the staff gets together and prays before beginning the day. We pray for many things, but we always pray for our guests. Then we go to our positions and open the gates (7am) to allow the guests to come in. They rush in, sign up for showers, grab some coffee, get a lunch ticket, gobble down breakfast, and then relax while waiting for lunch. The mornings are always extremely busy. After lunch, the park calms down a lot. The park closes at 2:45pm (M-F), and we have a short staff meeting then leave around 3pm. The 3 of us that work at the park as JVs walk home together and run into many of the guests. This may be the hardest part of the day. It's when we say "hello" and "Have a good night." to the guests we see on our walk home that I remember that I get to return to a large house with food/showers/etc. every afternoon when the park closes, but the guests don't have all of that. Some may have homes, but not enough money for food. Then there's also feeling guilty because I'm no longer at work, so I'm fine with saying hi on the walk, but I no longer want to just sit down and talk to them for hours. I often find the walk home to be the hardest part of the day.

The job is very rewarding though. I've never heard so many "God bless you"s as I hear at the park. Guests don't even know me and see that I'm wearing a green hat so they will say "God bless you" just because I'm trying my hardest to help them. Sure, I also hear more screaming and cursing than I've probably ever heard before, but that's how a lot of the guests know how to show affection, so I try not to let it get to me. Another part of the job that is rewarding is every time I can remember one of the guest's names. We feed around 800 people every day right now. Today we actually fed around 850 people. That's a lot of names to type into the computer and try to remember for the next day. Every time I can catch myself remembering names, I feel rewarded. I remembered one of the guest's names this week, and when I said "Good morning Greg" I saw his face light up. I don't know if other staff members don't remember his name, or if he just didn't expect me to remember it so quickly, but his smile was a grand reward for such a small gesture. I never realized how important and personal names were until these past two weeks.

Well, I should get going. My boxes came in yesterday, so I need to finish unpacking. I'm also reading Paper Moon by Linda Windsor, and I'd like to get some more of that read this afternoon. I'll post some pictures of the house once I'm unpacked. It's a beautiful house. I've been extremely blessed, and I appreciate all of your support (even just the support of reading my updates).

God bless,

Monday, August 15, 2011

Krystal Goes West

It's been a while since I last updated. In that time, a lot has happened.

First, the gracious folks of St. John's and St. Joseph's Catholic Churches in Southeast Kansas helped me greatly surpass my goal for fundraising for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I will never be able to express how much I appreciate their generosity. I could not ask for a better place to have been raised, y'all have made me who I am, and I love it!

Then, I had to quickly pack for my year because I was leaving on August 2. I flew into Reno where I met up with my friend Lisa. On the plane ride, I met a saxophonist and a girl that flew first class back from London to LA like 1 seat away from Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley)! I had almost a week with Lisa in which we climbed C hill in Carson City, went to Lake Tahoe, visited our friend Alex in Grass Valley, CA, and saw a free Gin Blossoms concert on the Santa Cruz boardwalk. It was a great end to my summer. Lisa and her family were extremely hospitable and I cannot thank them enough (as was Alex's family the day we were there).

Next was JVC Orientation in Aptos, CA. There are 85 JVs in the Southwest Region. There are 15 males and 70 females. Orientation was a great time. We got to make friends throughout the region (California and Arizona) and were forced to have deep conversations within our houses.

I'm living with 6 other girls in a beautiful Victorian house in downtown Sacramento. We moved here on Thursday, and had our first day of work today. Over the weekend, we set up a house bank account, visited our work placements, played ultimate frisbee, went to Second Saturdays (an art thing in downtown Sac), attended mass at the cathedral, and went grocery shopping. That doesn't seem like a lot, but it took up the entire weekend. We barely rested.

The first day of work today seemed like it was going to be very overwhelming. I've never really worked with the homeless before and after the first hour or so I just wanted to break down and cry. Then we had a work meeting with all of the new JVs working in the park and our bosses. It was a nice break. Then I got a tour around all of the different facilities of Loaves and Fishes before returning to the park. Upon my return, I chatted with an older man that is leaving on a bus for Florida on Wednesday to move down by his son. He was extremely kind, and I listened to him talk for a couple hours. After chatting with him, I knew I could handle the job. Then I went to lunch with Anne and Nicole (the other JVs). We got back and I worked at the service counter for the rest of the afternoon (until it closed). When it closed 15 minutes before the park closed, I went out and saw a fairly young guy sitting on a bench alone. He looked very lonely, so I decided to go talk to him. This is when I realized how difficult the job really will be. Not only is it difficult because I'm seeing the less fortunate every day, but I'm also meeting people that haven't had others be kind to them in a very long time. It must have been this young man's first time (or one of his first times) at the park because he kept asking why I wanted to talk to him. All I could think to say was that it'd looked like he could use a friend, so I wanted to be there for him as a friend. Sadly, we only had 15 minutes to talk, but when the park closed, he said he often wishes he had a friend to talk to. I assume I'll be seeing him around more often.

This year is going to be challenging, but has already been rewarding. I may even start looking forward to 6:45am (when we have to be at work) very soon.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Adventures Around Kansas

Since July 1, I have been keeping myself busy. I flew back to Kansas on July 2. Celebrated the 4th of July with the family on the 3rd. Relaxed/unpacked on the 4th, 5th, and 6th. On July 7th, I drove to Pittsburg to visit cousin Rachel. We joined with Lexie on the 8th and drove over to Joplin to visit Penny. We ate lunch at Cabo de Sol (I think that's what it was called) and then Lexie had to leave for work, but Rachel and I hung out with Penny a bit longer.

On July 9th, I left Rachel's around noon because she had a birthday party to go to. I went to JD's house in Frontenac. We caught up, then went and got lunch before packing up to go to the Royals game. We left for the game around 2:20pm or so after picking up JD's sister and waking Chris up. We picked up Kevin on the route and then met up with Nick, Ashley, Lisa, Kirk, Autumn, Shauna, Frank, and Emily at the K. I had a lot of fun, and the Royals won the game 13-6! Then we headed back down south and got back to Frontenac around midnight.

I left around 7:30am on the 10th in order to make it back to Iola in time to go to the Royals game with my family. I arrived around 9, and we finally left around 10am. I finally went to the Royals Hall of Fame. I never thought about the fact that the World Series trophy would be in there. I got extremely excited upon siting it! We sat through the game. It looked like the Royals were going to pull of a comeback in the bottom of the 9th since Eric Hosmer started off with a double, but they did not. Jacob and I took cousin Averie to run the bases for Kids Day. After running the bases, we headed to Lawrence, met up with Mandy & Toby, got dinner, then headed home.

On the 11, 12, and 13th, I mostly just continued relaxing and unpacking around the house. On the 13th, I packed for the trip to Florida with the family. On the 14th, I headed to Altamont and had a Harry Potter marathon with Ashley and Kevin before we went to the midnight premiere in Parsons.

On the 15th around noon, my family picked me up and we started the LONG drive to Florida. Finally got to Belleview, FL, around noon on the 16th. On the 17th, we had a family get-together at Aunt Faune's house. All of the old babies are now in elementary school, so I now feel old around the Florida family. We went swimming with the little kids multiple times. It was a fun day. I found out that I share a birthday with little Gavin (he turns 3 on Thursday! It was our first time meeting him).

Well that's all I've been up to the past couple weeks. Next post should be about the rest of the trip to Florida. Then I'll be headed out West for the next year. If you'd like to support me as a Jesuit Volunteer, please donate in my name. You can do so by donating via the website: or you can write a check to "Jesuit Volunteer Corps" with "Krystal Pennuto" on the memo line and sending it to: Jesuit Volunteer Corps; 801 St. Paul Street; Baltimore, MD 21202. Even $1 helps! Anything you can give, I thank you!

Until next time,

Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer Updates

Hello friends!

Since this is my first post, I will attempt to briefly update you on what has happened since May. I hope to post around once a week from now on to keep you all updated on what is going on in my life. I know that moving to Sacramento will make it more difficult to keep in touch, so I hope that this will help keep y'all updated on what I'm up to. So let's get started!

On May 12, 2011, I graduated from Tulane University with a B.S. in Geology. The next day, I was offered a position as a Staff Associate at Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento, CA, through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I promptly accepted and started trying to figure out how I could see the most friends possible before moving out West.

From May 18-26, I was rafting on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with my Grand Canyon Colloquium class from the spring. The trip was AMAZING! Our boatmen (Hatch River Expeditions) were all really cool and our group got along excellently. It was a nice way to celebrate graduating (over half of the students had graduated the week before). I enjoyed a week away from technology, but it was nice to return home and be with the family for a while.

Here I am at Nankoweap:

After the Grand Canyon trip, I was home for a week before leaving for Ireland. During this week, I received a packet of paperwork that I needed to fill out for JVC before leaving. The week wasn't as relaxing as I'd hoped due to this unexpected paperwork, but I was still able to enjoy time with the family.

I left for Ireland on June 3, 2011. Last summer, I participated in a field course the James Madison University in Ireland, and this summer, I had the amazing opportunity to be a Teacher's Assistant for the course. I arrived in Shannon, Ireland, on June 4 and quickly began this adventure. I had a week and a half in Clonbur, including the Independent Mapping Project and the first week of Sed Strat/Hydro. Then we took the students to Northern Ireland and brought them to Giant's Causeway (my favorite place on earth), Dunluce Castle, White Rocks beach, and multiple sites of the Old Red Sandstone as well as other places. After our 4 day adventure to Northern Ireland, we headed down to Doolin for the final week of the field course. Here the students completed weed #2 of Sed Strat/Hydro (whichever track they chose). We took the students to the Cliffs of Moher during this week. On Saturday, June 25, 2011, we dropped the students off at Shannon Airport. Some flew home that day, but many continued to travel. I headed up to Belfast that day with 3 of the professors. We had to drop the 15 passenger vans off in Northern Ireland and Belfast is the closest airport to where we get the vans. The night in Belfast with the professors was one of my favorites. On the drive up north, Tony & I played a wave game (we'd wave at basically everyone we passed, and whomever got the most waves in return won) which I won. After we made it to Belfast and checked into the Hilton, we went to Pizza Express for dinner. Evidently Pizza Express is kind of a fast food chain up there, but it was the most delicious food we'd had since we arrived. It was very flavorful and we had an amazing waiter. Then we got drinks at the Crown Bar across from the Europa Hotel... This area had been bombed over 40 times during the IRA stuff. Then we headed home and Tony & I left for America the next day.

Me at Portstewart:

Dinner at Pizza Express:

On June 26, I returned to America, but I flew to Chicago, not Kansas. I'm currently in Chicago visiting my friend Katie and trying to meet up with other friends in the area. The week has been mostly me relaxing, but on Wednesday we went to Beauty and the Beast at the Oriental Theatre (it was AMAZING)! Yesterday, I met up with Kordys and got some Garrett's popcorn (supposedly the best popcorn ever) which I still need to try. Then we went to a rooftop bar while we waited for his brother to arrive. Once Evan got downtown, the 3 of us went to Taste of Chicago and they made me eat more than my fair share of delicious Chicago cuisine. We ended the night walking through Millennium Park and then dashing into the French Consulate in order to escape the rain. Eventually the rain let up enough for me and Katie to make it to the Blue line so we could go meet up with some of her friends at Davenports off of Division. We got there and Davenports looked closed so we went into a nearby Walgreens because it was starting to rain again. When we finally decided to go, we walked outside for it to start hailing (golf ball sized). We went back inside until the hail stopped and the rain let up a little. We then hurried back to the L. We were soaked, but we eventually made it home and were able to dry off. The night was a grand adventure.

Katie & I before Beauty and the Beast:

Buckingham Fountain:

Justin & Evan at Taste of Chicago:

Well, that's all for now. I head home tomorrow and will FINALLY get to spend more than 1 week with my family for the first time since December. I can't wait to return to Kansas because there's no place like home.