Pioneers of Peace » Pioneers of Peace Walk Not Just Talk

 

IMG_2843

I sat down at my desk, opened my computer, and while I was waiting for WordPress to load, I lifted my eyes from the screen to look out the window. The wind chimes hanging by my back door were singing, as were the birds, and I beheld the beautiful sunrise pictured above. A perfect Valentine’s Day morning.

Aside from the picturesque sky, I can attest to “There is beauty all around.” That phrase comes from a popular hymn that continues with… “when there’s love at home.”

Maya Angelou said “I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself”

IMG_2806

February 13th  finally arrived. We loaded up seven over-sized Target bags holding two hundred “POP Love Bundles,” and delivered them to Volunteers of America (VOA) Homeless Youth Resource Center.

We were welcomed by a lovely young man who offered to help us carry the heavy bags inside. Once inside, we saw food for the taking lining the shelves. We met Anna Stapley the program coordinator and she took us on a tour of this amazing facility.

1f2fe7729753dc4b7b561999f4166fdd

When they say “Homeless Youth Resource Center,” they aren’t kidding! From the outside, the building looks quite small. When you walk in, the space feels cramped…but just you wait; as we began touring we felt like one of the below:

We had actually walked into Dr. Who’s Tardis
Hermione Granger dipped her hand into her magical purse
IKEA had swooped in making the best possible use of this very small space

There were shelves holding large bins of hygiene supplies, baby supplies, food, clothing, shoes, backpacks, blankets, dress clothes for job interviews, sleeping bags and much more.

There were two computers, seven showers, a large open area that I think doubled for serving meals and holding groups.

The center is open:

Mon – Fri 9:15 am- 1 pm (drop in-center)

Mon – Fri 9 am – 5 pm (appointment only or drop donations)

Breakfast served: Mon-Fri 9:15 am – 9:45 am

Lunch served: Mon-Fri 1- 1:30 pm

Dinner served: Friday only 4-4:30 pm

Different groups offered include: Art group, Get an I.D., Horizonte Group (GED and education), Yoga Group, Music Group, Haircut and a Movie Group, Homeless Court (for kids with legal problems), Zine Group (run by the Community Writing Center) and two other groups for talking about what’s on your mind and learning new skills.

…and the services continue…case managers helping youth get connected to community resources, job interviewing skills, assistance for obtaining new social security cards (remember, you can’t get a job without a social security card,) and so much more that I can’t even begin to do it justice. I can’t remember the exact ratio of full time employees to volunteers but I do know there are 20 who give their time freely to help vulnerable youth get stabilized.

Volunteers of America’s mission statement is:

Volunteers of America, Utah is a ministry of service organized to reach and uplift those in greatest need and to provide opportunities to experience the joy of serving others.

We at Pioneers of Peace resonate with that sentiment wholeheartedly.

Right now I wish you could feel what is inside my heart. Take a moment and try to imagine the feeling of seeing so much good being done for so many vulnerable people and then on top of that, add all of the effort on everyone’s part to make POP Operation Love Bundles possible.

We would like to thank each one of you who contributed to the success of this project. From cheering us on, to sending positive energy and prayers and sharing our goals, to financial support, making scarves, buying fabric, socks, protein bars and lip balm. Thank you for writing quotes on paper cranes and then lovingly folding them, and also the actual assembling of the love bundles; We say…THANK YOU! WITHOUT YOUR SUPPORT WE COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT. We have all walked, not just talked.

Our rough calculations show that together we spent $1,030.00 and served 100+ hours for POP Operation Love Bundles. Well done everyone!

Our goal was to let our homeless youth know they are not forgotten. We hope in some small way we fulfilled Maya Angelou’s beautiful quote.

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself”

 IMG_2834

images

I was running late already, but when I turned left instead of right my fate was sealed. As I approached the library in a harried state, I saw a young man hanging out close to where I was going to park my car. Is this safe, I questioned.

No time to worry now; just park the car and get everything inside. Everyone will be arriving soon; we have booked the library for two hours. Will everybody show up? … and the big question, will we be able to assemble 200 love bundles in that amount of time? 

Everyone did show up. We folded the scarves in half length wise and laid them out across the conference table. It was kind of like making Giada De Laurentiis’s lasagna roll ups. First the scarf, then a layer of socks, next a layer of hand warmers, and on top of that a protein bar. Alongside the protein bar,  lip balm, and then the piece de resistance, a paper crane containing the most important spice; an inspirational quote. Roll that all up nice and neat and tie it with a piece of raffia. Viola a “Love Bundle.”

Someone was singing “Rollin, rollin, rollin, rollin, rollin, rollin,” there were other songs from the Lion King, and comments like, “I am rocking these love bundles” and “Make sure you blow a kiss into each one of these babies.” We talked about the TV show Blacklist, catching fireflies when we were kids and Moulin Rouge. Each team member disclosed their signature strengths and opportunities and at one point, someone said, “I feel really close to you guys right now.”  It was hard to tell if the comment was playful, or dare I say sarcastic, but personally… I felt like I had 6 new best friends.

Because of all the frivolity I don’t remember when I first noticed, but I saw that the boy who was standing by my parking place had moved inside. He was sitting on a chair that made it possible for him to see everything we were doing. Throughout the two and a half hours we were there, my eye would catch him, and I was reminded he was there.

What’s he doing? Something is not right. At times I couldn’t tell if he was sleeping or just slumped over playing on his phone. Is he homeless? Is he waiting for someone? Does he just like hanging out at the library?

And then I would be carried away in the friendly atmosphere of new found friends who on their own time, chose to come together to make a difference in the lives of homeless adolescents.

Someone once posed a question similar to this, “If a star appeared in the sky that held some great significance; would you see it?” I’ve thought a lot about that question over the past month and have wondered if I would. 

About an hour and a half into assembling “Operation Love Bundles,” I walked out into the hall and approached the young man. I said, “Just hanging out at the library today?” He didn’t look up at me, but said in a flat voice, “Yeah.” I said, “You’ve been sitting here a long time.” Again, without looking up, he said “Yeah.”

I walked back into the assembly room wondering if I should do anything more.

To make a long story short, I didn’t. We finished the project and ended with so much oxytocin floating through the room, it was intoxicating. Thank you’s and promises of working together again on a charitable cause carried us out to our cars.

Out to our cars… As we were loading up 7 oversized Target bags containing 200 love bundles, I noticed the boy standing in the same place he was standing when I drove up. What is he doing I asked myself again. Should I do something? Should I give him a love bundle? Should I ask him if he is okay?

I drove away.

Today is February 9. We are dropping the bundles off at HYRC on the 13th. We are experiencing a record breaking heat wave in Salt Lake City. Our love bundles were created to let homeless youth know they are not forgotten and to keep them warm on cold nights. Participation on this project has been overwhelming. Many have walked, not just talked and for that we at Pioneers of Peace are so grateful. We know there is a magical synergy that takes place between the giver and the  receiver, and all are measurably edified…and that’s what Pioneers of Peace is all about.

But as I reflect back on “Assembly Day,” I can’t help but think I missed the star. If I could have a do-over, at the very least, I would call up my courage and try harder to engage the young man. Perhaps I would ask him to help us. What is the irony in putting together 200 love bundles in the middle of a heat wave when there might have been 1 with us from start to finish, and we did nothing. 

“Do your best until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ~Maya Angelou

To that young man, I say, “I am so sorry. I will do better next time.”

 

PIONEERS OF PEACE LOGO BUSINESS CARD 3inch size