I was very interested in the services that Micah provides to the community and chose to find a volunteer opportunity through them. After contacting one of the directors in the organization I learned about daily dinners that churches in the community provide. I chose to help out at the Presbyterian Church from 4-6pm on Saturday night. The environment was every friendly and everyone that attended seemed to be familiar with each other. The volunteers wanted to create a safe place where the individuals attending the dinner could work on socializing skills and make ties within the community. Instead of self-serve the volunteers would serve the individuals and also give many opportunities for seconds. There was also music put on by members of the church’s congregation. The Presbyterian church acknowledged the power difference between the volunteers and the people coming to the church for food. They made many efforts to learn names and leave income and housing at the door.
I was able to sit down with many people and talk about their experiences with the dinner and other dinners also run my Micah. A majority of the people I talked with encouraged me to attend more dinners to see all of the great dinners that the community offers. At first conversation was awkward and short, but once I shared that I wanted to volunteer people began to open up about their stories. I found that a majority of the individuals were either in the warm weather shelter or had housing that was simply not permanent or stable.
A police officer entered the dinner looking for someone and immediately, people were telling me of the police harassment that they face due to their financial situation. Many people I talked with were frustrated with the police and didn’t find themselves able to trust them. While we discussed racial segregation involving the police, hearing these experiences provided a lot of insight into social institutions, like socioeconomic status or race, that continue to shape and run society.
The community involvement project gave me the experience to see power at work. There are many perspectives of power that can be viewed, but I saw power through the roles of the church. The local churches in downtown Fredericksburg take on the role of the provider for many individuals that are facing poverty. Most of Micah’s funding is from donations which keeps the power of these services as the responsibility of the local community. This takes the pressure and responsibility away from the government and works to decrease the poverty problem at a local level.