During the past year, I've deepened my relationship with Neighborhood Service Organization, a multi-purpose social service agency in Detroit. Last year, students in my upper-level writing in the public sphere class worked with NSO's walk-in center in the Cass Corridor. Students conducted research on the neighborhood and worked with the center's staff to create various reports and documents that engaged some of the crucial concerns of the center: its relationship with the Corridor's business community, the actions of the unsanctioned volunteers who work and prosyletize outside the center, and so on. This term, my first-year students partnered with the agency's headquarters to generate material for NSO's newsletter. Students have learned a great deal and I hope their written work has helped the organization.
A few months back, I joined with several Gesu colleagues to walk NSO's 5K fundraiser. Last summer, I took a group of students to their annual breakfast event. One of the things that's happening is I'm blurring the line between NSO as a professional (i.e., service learning) contact and a personal contact. I mean "blur" in the best possible sense. Like most people in this particular biz, I often feel the work is disjointed. Monday: grade papers. Tuesday: work on that theoretical article. Friday: three meetings that have little or nothing to do with either of the above. NSO's helped me feel a bit of coherence.
This weekend, I hope to hit the Russel Bazzar downtown, where NSO is hosting local artists and vendors selling locally crafted Christmas gifts. They'll be taking donations too. A cadre from Gesu (my church) and I are finishing our training tomorrow for a project supporting recently housed NSO clients. This is an exciting venture. We're working to provide support services for folks who after years of homelessness have made the transition to apartment life. The kick-off of these support services is a Christmas party for fifty people, featuring full holiday dinner (turkey, ham, etc.). If you know me, then you know that few things make me as happy than cooking for big groups. If you are reading this and have mad kitchen skills, then you might get a call from me regarding the aforementioned party.
Great to connect with people whose work is so essential. I can't overemphasize the satisfaction that comes along with a little bit of coherence, connecting one piece of my life to another. Building those connections between work life and personal life takes work. Sometimes people don't want that type of connectedness, preferring to shut off at 5:00. Not me.