It is our first day on the City Seeds farm, and I am very excited to get going on another type of service. We did mostly weeding in the community gardens section, which wasn’t the most fun, but it had to be done. Today we were working with some of the clients of one of the partner organizations with City Seeds. The clients were U.S. veterans who were gaining experience in gardening and landscaping in order to get steady jobs in the field. While weeding, I had a very entertaining conversation with a couple of guys about baseball. One was a Cardinals fan, and the other a Cubs fan. For those of you that don’t follow baseball, these teams are big rivals. So while they didn’t actually get mad at each other, an entertaining argument ensued. I chimed in about my Phillies fan hood, but I was clearly the ester point in the argument.
Working at Food Outreach was an eye-opening experience for me. Food Outreach is an organization that helps give people living with HIV/AIDS or Cancer meals that they would otherwise probably not have. I was really happy to be working there because the work we did there was meaningful and you could see firsthand that it was helping the clients. One of the women we met had HIV and Cancer. I helped wheel out her cart and she told me she had a kidney removed and a hernia. She was extremely positive and kept telling jokes to us. I found this very encouraging that she went through so much and is still living her life optimistically.
I used to think that the best part about grocery shopping was picking out fun or delicious foods that you got to take home and eat yourself. I was proved wrong this week when our group got to have a unique ‘grocery shopping’ experience at Food Outreach. While half of our group was in the kitchen preparing meals for the clients (people suffering from HIV, AIDS, or cancer), the other half was up front filling food orders as they were sent in. We were all bustling about the food pantry with huge rolling carts, adding foods requested by the clients on their bi-weekly or monthly food list. I enjoyed thinking about the meals they could prepare with the basic ingredients, as well as checking out all of the prepared meals that were in the freezer. It was a much better feeling to know that I was picking out the foods to go to someone who obviously deserved to be provided with a nutritious meal for what they are going through in their life, as opposed to thinking that they were just going into my pantry at home. This was an important learning experience for me because I had never thought about how many things are changed for people with diseases like the ones the clients that Food Outreach helps. When I thought of cancer or HIV patients I thought about how difficult treatment and hospital time must be. I never thought about all the other basic needs that become so much harder to fill from having these illnesses. It was an eye opening experience to see how many things in their life are made so much more difficult, on top of having to deal with the disease that they have. It is so great that an organization like Food Outreach is available to these people to take a burden off of their shoulders for food bills and let them focus on other things in their life that they have to worry about.
Working at Shaw Elementary was the most fun thing that we got to do all week. I love to work with little kids and working with them for a couple hours was really enjoyable. I was working on the vegetable beds and teaching them how to pick vegetables and how to weed. We had only learned how to weed that morning and we had no idea how to teach little kids how to, but we did the best we could, and had a lot of fun doing it. My favorite part was Sarah and I were talking to this 5th grader and she was asking us what our majors in college were and how we got into them, and if we were excited to live in dorms. It was really funny hearing her ask such adult questions at such a young age. It also portrayed that even though they lived in a bad neighborhood they are still getting a good education.
Today I had one of the best days to date on this trip, mainly because of the service work we did in the afternoon. Leaving City Seeds after a few grueling hours of battling Bermuda grass (a weed with roots that go 2-3 feet deep), we drove to a community garden. We pulled up and were greeted by this little retired lady who used to run it. She expressed her thanks to us multiple times as we began spreading mulch on walkways, weeding garden beds, and cleaning up junk from around the property. The work we did was extremely rewarding, but not extremely hard. Our group dove into the project and pretty soon after had everything looking pristine. A woman in her twenties walked by us, then turned around and went to talk to some of us. I was not in that group, but I heard that she expressed interest in working in the garden now that she saw that other people were doing it, too. That interaction combined with the end product made that service site one of my favorites in St. Louis.
My time in St. Louis was absolutely amazing. It was such a new experience to me. One afternoon we did service at a community garden, and this garden used to be beautiful. But over the years it slowly started to fade away. We went there and met a woman who took care of the garden but was getting older so it was harder for her to keep the garden up. We started doing the basics, weeding small sections and mulching here and there. But as we kept working and she kept thanking and we seeing people in the communities appreciate our work, it made us work even harder. After a few hours, the garden looked completely new. We did a lot more than anyone would have expected. It was an amazing feeling to actually see that our work in the community was beneficial and that people really appreciated our work.
Today in St. Louis we went to a local farmer’s market. It was so fun and interesting to see all of the different products and vendors. Everyone was so pleasant and I enjoyed interacting with the various sellers. It was also great to see the people from City Seeds again too! They had their own booth and they were so happy to see me and a peer of mine. We talked for a while about our week and how we enjoyed each other’s company. While venturing around the market, spanish guitar music was played in the background. Some people were dancing and multiple people were sitting down, enjoying the music and life in general. The atmosphere of the market was cheery and pleasant. Everyone seemed so happy. Little children frolicked around, people ate gelato (my favorite!), and the smell of crepes filled the air. My caramel, chocolate coffee warmed my stomach as I strolled the park. I thoroughly enjoyed the farmer’s market and plan to visit more often to one’s in my area nearby!
Today is our last day in St. Louis, and it was the perfect way to end off the week. We got to sleep in this morning (until 8 AM) before going to the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market. The Market was awesome, there were tons of fresh fruits and vegetables and a variety of delicious baked goods. We received a budget and were able to buy anything we wanted for breakfast and lunch. I got a cheese scone, an apple, a cup of the nation’s best apple cider, and some lemon sorbet. I also got to stop by the City Seeds stand and visit one of the clients we had been working with all week. It was really cool to see the final product of the work we had been doing all week.
On our last day in St. Louis we stopped by the local farmers market for lunch and breakfast. There were many stands and tents set up but two of them really stuck out to me, the City Seeds one and a one selling chocolate. The City Seeds tent was really neat because the people manning the tent selling their products were the same people I worked with on the garden just the previous day. The last stand and the most visited stand by me was the chocolate one for many reasons. First I really enjoy chocolate, and was curious to see what selection and variety the women offered. Within a few minutes I walked away with a bag full of chocolate and a grin slowly growing on my face waiting to eat the chocolate. After making this amazing discovery I wanted to show others what an awesome stand it was. Later on after I brought a half dozen people that bought a lot of chocolate to her stand I thought she jokingly said I should get a commission for bringing so many people to her store. Staring at her for a few seconds I realized she was not kidding and she really wanted to offer me something. I politely declined her offer but she persisted that I at least take a little bit of chocolate as a reward. Free things are pretty rare and free chocolate is almost never offered so I then graciously accepted her offer of some small ginger bark chocolate. That right there just made my day even if it was only at 10 o clock in the morning. I mean what it better than free chocolate!?
Today we leave St. Louis and drive to Horse Cave Kentucky, a cave town. Certainly a change of pace from bustling St. Louis. Fall is showing itself slowly but surely around here, the drive should be pretty. While I’m looking forward to new things in KY, St. Louis has established itself as home for me as the rest of our homes have the past few weeks. I find that as I follow a routine in our residencies, I am able to settle in rapidly. I like that about this trip. Kentucky, here we come!