While many students spent their winter break catching up with family and friends, eating a lot of food, and lounging on the couch, a select group of Springfield College students took a few days out of their break to participate in a service trip to New York City.
The Bronx trip was put together by Newman Community member and senior Lindsey Steele.
“It was through the Newman Community, which is a Catholic-based, but not exclusive club on campus,” said Steele. “It’s kind of focused around service and going out and doing things that are related through all the service that came from Christ and through his teachings. A lot of people on the trip actually hadn’t heard of Newman and weren’t members.”
Steele went on the trip her freshman and sophomore years, and knew she wanted to do it again this year based on her past experiences.
“I know for me it was a really good and enlightening, inspirational experience, and I wanted [others] to have the same feelings I had when I went,” Steele explained.
With planning that began in October with SC’s chaplain, Deacon Bill Toler, the group finally made the dream a reality and stayed in the Bronx from Jan. 7-11.
Their five-day trip began when they moved in with Franciscan monks for the duration of their stay. The monks ran a homeless shelter for men with past substance abuse problems.
“The place where we were doing our service is the poorest Congressional district in the entire country,” Steele said. “We stayed right in the south Bronx, so we got to live for a week in the place that we were serving. Their goal is to get people back on their feet and to get them clean.”
During the day the men would have to leave the shelter and contribute to the community. Later, they came back to the shelter around six in the evening. The entire group would eat together, do their nightly chores, and then participate in some type of program, whether that be Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or counseling.
“We got to sit with them and talk to them. We got to see where they were from and what their interests were. They liked to hear a lot about what we were doing too,” trip participant, Liz Hurley explained.
While staying at the shelter was an experience in its own, the five-day trip was jam-packed with several different community service activities.
The group worked with God’s Love We Deliver, a group that delivers healthy and nutritious meals to people who have diabetes or cancer, people who have tested positive for HIV, as well as a crew of elderly folks.
“The first day we were there we worked in their kitchen. We actually put the meals together, sealed them up, and [got] them ready to be delivered,” explained Steele. “The second time we were there during the week, we actually got to go out with our bags and go along the route and deliver the meals by hand to the people.”
The group of eight also visited the Catholic Charities of America Community Thrift Store, where they helped sort through mounds of clothing.
“They had so many donations. It was literally a mountain,” Steele said in disbelief.
One of the bigger projects they tackled was visiting the New York City Food Bank. While they were there they participated in a warehouse repack.
“A lot of people [donate], but they never actually know what happens to their stuff,” said Steele.
The group worked on sorting through everything and made sure each item was categorized, labeled and weighed properly.
Another activity the group did, the midnight run, ended up being a favorite.
“[For the midnight run] we made sandwiches and we packaged them up. Everyone who went on the trip brought some extra clothing. [We] all got in our SC vans and we drove around the city to public places, such as churches, and we would walk in and offer people sandwiches and then they would come out to the car and take any clothing they wanted to [use] to stay warm. We barely had any clothes when we went home,” Hurley said.
“We actually ended up doing it twice. Your heart just breaks for the amount of people you see out there,” added Steele.
While the entire group was booked the majority of the time they were there, they were able to sneak in some sight-seeing as well. The group enjoyed a ferry ride to Staten Island and soaked in all the sites of New York.
The entirety of the trip went off without a hitch. The group members accomplished what they came to do, and they felt that they learned a lot throughout the entire process.
“I think it was really nice to be able to step back as a leader and be able to see everyone else and how they were reacting to the situations. It was nice to see how everyone thought of the same situation because we’re all there together doing pretty much the same thing, but everyone else had their own take and opinion,” Steele said with a smile.
The entire process brought the group together, but most importantly, they accomplished their ultimate goal of serving many who are in need.