A Week at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks with Katie Blodgett

20 Nov

2015-16 Episcopal Service Corps member Katie Blodgett has been placed with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks (OAFB), a fantastic partner organization that has been with Confluence since the beginning! This week you will have the chance to learn all about the impactful work OAFB does and Katie’s role in the organization.

OAFB is Ohio’s largest charitable response to hunger. It serves 12 member foodbanks, which have a collective 3,300 member agencies among them, like homeless shelters and soup kitchens. The Association operates the Ohio Food Program, which makes sure that shelf-stable food is available to its member food banks, and the Agriculture Clearance Program gets surplus, sometimes “cosmetically challenged” agriculture products to the food banks. The Association also operates a national Navigator program and the Ohio Benefit Bank. The Associate seeks to advocate for policies that help Ohioans out of poverty, seeks to educate policy makers on poverty and hunger, and seeks to engage in conversations that involve real change and investment.

Follow OAFB here…..

Twitter: @OhioFoodbanks
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OASHF/

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“I work on a plethora of projects, ranging from helping create a Hunger Caucus to brainstorming new ideas for the Summer Food Service Program Summit. I stay up-to-date on current events and the happenings regarding food policy, and get to visit the statehouse about once a week with Lisa, the executive director.

Being at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks has really forced me to grow and has stretched me in many ways. I am partially in the advocacy department, a place that I have never considered being in before. I am so much more involved in policy and current events than I’ve been before, and it has really forced me to be educated and to actually have a stance on things. Being placed here required me to become really acquainted with all of the intertwining issues of poverty, hunger, lack of health care, and many more.

I have been given a lot of freedom to identify projects that I think will be interesting and helpful, while having a chance to get out of the office and visit foodbanks and member food pantries. The Association has a lot of departments focused on many different things, but I really appreciate and love how passionate everyone seems to be about justice for everyone. Everyone should have the chance to better themselves, and it is inspiring being around so many people who are trying to help those on the fringes get ahead.

I have loved having the opportunity to go to the Statehouse and sit in on so many meetings and see a side of things I never thought I would have interest in. Being here at the Association has definitely made me a more well-informed person and has made me passionate about people’s access to the most basic of needs: food, education, and health care. I am looking forward to the rest of my year, and how my ideas will continue to change and evolve.”

KAtie B at OAFB

 

“This is me and Kristine Dugan, the Manager of Internal Affairs. She does a lot of work regarding HR, and has been really helpful in coaching me through working for a big organization. Kristine also gives me lots of food recipes and inspiration, and is always a source of laughter and joy at work.”

Episcopal Service Corps member, Katie Blodgett’s placement site, Ohio Association of Foodbanks, is Ohio’s largest charitable response to hunger, representing a network of 12 regional foodbanks, 3,300 local emergency food programs, and 2 million different Ohioans who seek help from those food pantries and soup kitchens each year. The association advocates for equitable public policy to decrease poverty and hunger in Ohio. They invite you to engage with them by signing up for their action alerts, so you can join in during call-in days and stay connected to the issues that impact the vulnerable people they serve:
http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/…/sal…/web/common/public/signup…

The association directly fights hunger through a variety of hunger and poverty relief programs, but they also believe in the importance of fighting the stigmas that too often come with living in poverty or struggling with hunger. Consider joining them on Facebook and Twitter to help elevate the voices of individuals and families that aren’t always heard. If you’d like to get involved in hunger relief through volunteering, you can visit the association’s website to find your local foodbank and learn about upcoming opportunities: http://ohiofoodbanks.org/foodbanks/.

A Week with Anna Berger at Community Refugee & Immigration Services

15 Nov

2015-16 corps member, Anna Berger, is spending her Confluence Year with our partner Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) .

Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) is a non-profit agency whose mission it is to help refugees and immigrants reach and sustain self-sufficiency and achieve successful integration into the central Ohio community. Services provided include resettlement, employment, English language skills, assistance with legal issues pertaining to immigration, early childhood and parenting, older adult needs, interpretation and translation, outreach to Limited English Proficiency (LEP) populations, and wellness coordination and services.

Find and follow CRIS at….
crisohio.org
facebook.com/crisohio
criscommunity.wordpress.com
Instagram: CrisOhio
Twitter: @CrisOhio

Anna at CRIS

At CRIS, my main responsibilities center around assisting our case managers with pre-arrival preparations for clients. This means that I prepare basic household goods that clients will need when they arrive such as toiletries, clothing, cooking supplies, furniture and beds, ensuring that each family has the items that that family requires to fit its specific needs. I also perform support work for case managers in other capacities as requested of me, which can mean everything from helping to enroll clients’ children in schools to attending airport arrivals. Additionally, as of recently, I am in charge of the organization’s Instagram account. So be sure to give us a follow @CRISOHIO

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I started work at CRIS at a particularly interesting time. Everyday on the news were reports about Europe and the migrants who were crowding the borders, hoping to make their way to Germany or other countries in Western Europe. For many in the United States, this introduced the concept of refugees into their general consciousness. Everyone was suddenly very interested in the work that I was doing at CRIS. As there were reports on the news each day with experts arguing the points of increasing the number of migrants that the U.S will accept in the next few years, my job suddenly became a fascinating novelty for many people with whom I talked.

The most frustrating part about all of the press coverage on migrants over the last few months has been negative language surrounding the migrants and the situations in which they have found themselves, much of it on the part of potential presidential candidates. “Why are they leaving their countries? If there’s a war, why don’t they stay and fight? Why should we let them into our country? They just come and use up our public benefits AND they might be terrorists!” are just a few of the things I have heard. I immediately think about the clients with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work over the past three months when I hear such negative things. Once you’ve worked with refugees themselves, such negative statements become increasingly ridiculous. How is it that people can express such condemnation of persons simply trying to find a place in which they can live a life of relative peace without fear of death or persecution? Why deny people the possibility of living a life without constant fear?

The clients with whom I work are simply people who found themselves in impossible situations, through no fault of their own, and who chose to take action and search for a better life for themselves and their families. I am unable to imagine what they have gone through to make it here to the U.S., but I am always in awe when I interact with clients and the positivity which they retain. It’s always such a lesson for me when I’m having a bad day to remind me that the ability to retain a smile in the face of difficulty is one of the most important human qualities.

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Meet Anna Berger’s co-worker Breanne. Breanne is the Resettlement Education Specialist at Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS). She is responsible for facilitating all aspects of the Cultural Orientation program for newly arrived clients and developing educational opportunities/trainings for refugees and the broader public through relationship building/partnerships such as our Refugee Speakers Bureau. She also works closely with refugee mothers, organizing opportunities for them such as play groups and in-home ESOL tutoring, educating parents about infant sleep safety and helping them to obtain cribs and car seats, and scheduling WIC appointments for mothers who are pregnant and/or have children under the age of 5. Additionally, Breanne serves as a caseworker for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Safe Passages Program, where she evaluates appropriate home placements for undocumented Central American youth.

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There are lots of opportunities for members of the community to get involved with Anna Berger at Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS). Some of these opportunities include volunteering in ESL classes at the CRIS office, organizing a donation drive of welcome kit items, volunteering to drive clients to medical appointments, or donating funds to buy necessary household goods for newly arrived families. If you are interested in volunteering or are curious about more opportunities to volunteer, contact Melanie Williams (a past Confluence participant!) at volunteer@cris-ohio.org or at (614) 987-1642.

A Week with Hanna Kahler at St. John’s Franklinton

10 Nov

St. John’s Franklinton received a Domestic Ministry Poverty Grant from the Episcopal Church to hire a Confluence Volunteer as a Community Organizer spearheading their efforts to transition from charity work in the neighborhood to Asset Based Community Development. Hanna Kahler is our 2015-16 Volunteer placed at St. John’s and below is her story.

St. John’s has served the Franklinton neighborhood of Columbus for over 100 years bringing hope and healing to the community. They are centered by their common worship in the tradition of the Episcopal Church and they take seriously their fundamental biblical call to comfort those in need and to work for justice in order to alleviate those needs.

You can find out more about St. John’s by liking their facebook page, called St. John’s Episcopal and found here: https://www.facebook.com/saintjohnsepiscopal/?ref=ts

You can also see the St. John’s website at: www.st-johns-columbus@diosohio.org

 

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The work that I do day to day is incredibly varied and includes everything from planning an asset based community development training for our partner churches, to helping local kindergarteners plant tulip bulbs in St. John’s community garden, to pitching in with the Franklinton Garden’s Fall Festival by helping out with face painting . However, everything that I do is driven by the overall purpose of getting to know St. John’s neighbors better in order to identify the gifts and talents that they bring to the table.

One thing that I really appreciate about St. John’s is the long-term commitment that its staff and ministry leaders have made to the community of Franklinton. They feel a genuine call to work here at St. John’s and are dedicated to continuing in that calling. In ministry work, it is easy to start a good work with great enthusiasm, and then gradually get burnt out and eventually leave the ministry. However, the people that I work with have figured out how to engage in ministry over the long haul without flagging. Between the four long-term staff, they have 35 years of collective engagement here in Franklinton.  

This experience brings a great richness to their ministry. They have experienced a wide variety of situations in the past, and therefore have a large storehouse of experiences to draw upon in facing current issues. They have also known some parishioners and neighbors since they were toddlers, and have a rich understanding of the neighborhood and its people. This length of relationship has fostered trust, and opened up doors that would simply be impossible to someone just stepping into the neighborhood. I especially appreciate my co-workers rootedness here in Franklinton because I only arrived here a few months ago, and am still sorely in need of the wisdom and sense of place that they have to offer.   

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This picture shows a church staff meeting that included (clockwise from bottom) Jed, Will, Katie, me, Rev. Reat, and Meribah. We are working on creating a new website for St. John’s!

 

 

Perhaps the most important way that you can become involved at St. John’s is to come and spend time with us and with our neighbors. You come and connect your gifts and skills with the gifts and skills of the people of Franklinton.  

You can start getting involved by attending our Street Church or His Place worship services. Street Church is our second service and takes place on Sundays at 1pm at the corner of W. Broad and Central streets. His Place is our midweek service and happens at St. John’s at 6pm on Wednesdays. Both services are followed by delicious meals.

Meet the 2015-16 Confluence Volunteers!

14 Aug

Confluence is excited to welcome the 2015-16 Class to Columbus to join in with St. John’s Episcopal Franklinton during their Episcopal Service Corps Year. Get to know this incredible group of women committing themselves to a year of spiritual formation, service, intentional community, and social justice.

KG My name is Katie Guy and I’m a recent graduate of Ohio State where I studied Sociology and Nutrition. I come from a big family of 8 kids; hailing from a suburb of Dayton called Vandalia Ohio. I have loved getting to know Columbus during my undergraduate career and I look forward to learning a new part and investing in a community that I don’t know very well. My passions would be music, travel and culture. I’m an expert in none of them but always wanting to learn and experience more of them. I’ve spent an extensive amount of my time serving in Jamaica and have loved every minute of it. I will forever be grateful for the experiences that I’ve had there and the way they have shaped my life.

I look forward to this year of Confluence because of the promise of building in community with the other interns and the Franklinton neighborhood. I love how God is able to create true fellowship with people that would otherwise have not crossed paths. I have a particular interest in public health and I’m intrigued by how poverty and health are often linked negatively. I hope to understand this better after Confluence and I hope to offer a more positive outlook for those that are stuck in poverty. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing after Confluence Year but I hope to be serving the Lord and his people in whatever way He calls me.

Anna Berger HeadshotOriginally from Oak Ridge, North Carolina, Anna Berger is a recent graduate of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where Amish horse and buggy sightings are not a rarity. During her undergraduate years, Anna studied International Studies, German and Spanish. She also enjoyed participating on Kenyon’s Model UN team, being involved with Canterbury Club (the Episcopal young adult campus ministry program), and helping to found a chapter of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority at Kenyon. In her free time, Anna enjoys figure skating, reading, and baking desserts.

After the adventure of spending undergrad not only in rural Ohio but also in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Hungary, Anna is excited for the new adventure of spending the next year in Columbus with Confluence.
As much as she enjoyed her undergrad career, she looks forward to the chance to take a step outside of academics and to turn her focus to learning from other people and not just rom books. Anna is also thrilled about this opportunity to take a year to consciously explore and reflect on the “real world,” as well as the opportunity to increase her understanding of her goals for her own life.

Hanna KHello! My name is Hanna Kahler and I’m from the small town of Danville, Pennsylvania. Danville is surrounded by gently rolling hills, which are covered by lush green forests and filled with more white-tailed deer than you could possibly count. My nuclear family consists of Dad and Mom as well as two sisters—one older and one younger. This spring I graduated from Houghton College with dual degrees in International Development and Human Ecology and minors in English and Communication. I love to travel and was privileged to visit the Balkans and spend a semester in both Tanzania and New Zealand during my time at Houghton. This past summer I lived in Buffalo, NY and worked at a refugee drop-in center, interacting with refugees from all over the world. I am excited to spend a year exploring Columbus and living and learning in community alongside the other Confluence participants!

KBHello! My name is Katie Blodgett. I’m 24 years old from Indianapolis, IN. I graduated in 2013 from Indiana University with a degree in Nonprofit Management and German, and have since been kind of hopping around from one thing to the next! I’ve been working at Starbucks for over a year, I biked across the country with Bike and Build last summer, and I’m working with a youth missions organization called YouthWorks this summer before starting my time at Confluence. I have an amazing family with a brother, sister, mom and dad. My sister is married and has my niece Lily, and soon to be here nephew Hezekiah. My brother is getting married this May, so my family just seems to keep growing! I am so excited to live intentionally and simply while serving at an organization and with my housemates. I can’t wait to experience the joys and challenges that come with an ESC year, and I’m stoked to see what kind of changes happen in my heart and my housemate’s hearts through the year.

Notes from the Silence

17 Jun

In early May the Confluence volunteers ventured down to the Abbey at Gethsemani in Bardstown, KY for a weekend of silent retreat. The following reflections are the collected journals, essays, and prayers of the Confluence volunteers following the retreat.

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Unfinished Thoughts: Melanie Williams

Not too long ago, I was asked in a watercolor session to think of a name for God and write it in the center of a page. I wrote “Silent One,” kind of in spite. This year as been a long stretch of believing (with what I thought to be great integrity) that I was listening for God, pleading with God, waiting for God and God was ignoring me, completely indifferent. I heard silence and felt absence.

I met a man recently who describes his conversion experience as physical – his body filling up with the Holy Spirit and feeling like his ribs were going to burst open. He still feels motions of the Holy Spirit within him, directing him. I envy this, and when I interact with people like this I often wonder if I’m missing something. I totter back and forth between wanting to believe in this physically experiential God who is utterly foreign and intrudes on it’s creation (hopefully in positive ways) and wanting to believe in a God who just is, all the time, within existence, who we know when we know our neighbor. I think perhaps God could be both. Both transcendent, outside and entirely within everything even in unnoticeable, silent ways.

It’s hard to explain what being in silence and solitude for three days does to me. It felt transformative at the time, but did little to change the daily grind. On the retreat, I was attracted to the discipline of the monks and the idea of setting aside times in the day for prayer. I don’t often do this, I think because I’m more pulled by the idea of knowing God when we know our neighbor. So I allow others to interrupt, to distract, and I seek out those interruptions and distractions. On the retreat, I practiced knowing God by attempting transcendence from distraction. Seeking God in silence made me realize that perhaps God is most silent when I’m not. In a city, I don’t have much opportunity for true solitude, stillness, and silence – perhaps that’s why I’ve been attempting to seek God in other ways. But I think without stillness and silence, I’m missing a way that God reveals Godself (himself, herself, or whatever other hopeless pronoun you want to use).

If God is to some extent utterly foreign, there are things to be discovered about God by removing oneself from what is familiar. In the U.S. today, distraction is probably one of the most familiar things. Stillness without any productive agenda is probably one of the least familiar. But stillness, solitude, and silence seem crucial for being open to the Holy Spirit, regaining belief, and being capable of seeing God when I see my neighbor.

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Unfolding Creation: Nora Anderson

I was hiking, finding tall pine trees, abandoned orchards, and ethereal statues. I felt slightly weird while in the woods, almost as if I wasn’t entirely on earth anymore. I wasn’t afraid, but hyper-aware of my surroundings. I hiked up a small hill to the statues representing the night before Christ’s passion at the garden of gethsemane. First, there came a statue of two figures sleeping, when they should have been keeping watch. Then, further into the forest, a second statue of Christ praying. I took a seat on the crumbling wooden chair and listened.

I could hear the crackling of the leaves behind me as the earth grew and decayed at the same time. The forest was creating new parts of itself while simultaneously destroying existing spaces to make room for the new growth. I could hear squirrels and chipmunks running, then resting, then running again, watching for predators. The sound of birds was constant and changing. I could feel the sun on the back of my neck despite the thick canopy of leaves overhead. As I heard all these things, I read a compilation of quotes from Thomas Merton on the importance of introspection and contemplation.

Merton recognized that sitting alone and turning inside oneself is, inherently, difficult. Not only are we usually surrounded by things to do and people to talk with, but those activities allow us to ignore or gloss over our actions. As someone who’s not always lived the most Christian of lives, I understood what he was saying. My purpose of meditating in the forest that morning was to, as I have heard every Street Church, identify the things you’ve done that separate you from God and your neighbor, name that as sin, and give it up to God.

As I was thinking, I noticed that the sounds of the forest had almost completely stopped. The birds were no longer shrilling. The small creatures had stopped running. The forest still crackled, but a soft dragging sound accompanied it. I turned around in my chair to see a long, black snake raise its head above the leaves covering the floor. It looked around, then returned to the ground and left the clearing.

Et in Arcadia, ego. God knows that I haven’t yet found everything.

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Collected Prayers: Carolyn May

God of beauty, God of creation–
Thank you for your love and the gift of the earth. Help me move slowly through this weekend. Give me courage to go deeper into myself in search of you. Give me courage to venture into the woods and the fields. Give me courage, God.

Enter into the dark parts of me and be light.

May your creation inspire my creativity.

As the sun sets here in Kentucky, those on the other side of the world are looking to begin a new day. Dead flowers drop their seeds and new ones bud. This insect eats that insect and the world continues rotating.

Help me to embrace the process of becoming. Give me courage to use the voice and the body you have given me. Remind me when I get anxious about growing up that getting older does not mean that the world is less new. Remind me that resurrection is the heartbeat of the world. “Unmaking makes the world.”

I am tattered and frayed and I am afraid that that is all I am

But i want to be more. I want to be yours, God. I want to love recklessly and seek truth boldly. I long for resurrection. And I see and I hear and I feel new life pulsing in the world your hands molded. I want to be yours and to let my life also fall into that rhythm.

“Unmaking makes the world.” I pray, God, that that might be true in Baltimore amidst these riots. I pray that that might be true throughout the U.S. and in all places where violence and destruction are prevailing. May this unmaking pave the way for new life.

Come quickly, God. Have mercy on us. Make us new.

Where the Cross is Found

2 Apr

I’m struck by the pictures painted in the scripture of two gardens. The Garden of Eden, an idyllic garden, certainly not without temptation, but a space filled with connection to God, each other, and the Earth. We have our moments in the Garden of Eden; creekside sunset strolls, sharing a birthday lunch at the diner with three generations of family, late nights dancing and laughing with loved ones, an unexpected encounter with the voice of God, and celebrations with the table overflowing with good food and drink.

However, this week as we journey with Jesus towards the cross, we find ourselves in the Garden of Gethsemane, a space laden with fear, trembling, sweat, blood, and tears. A moment where Jesus has the choice to either face his enemies with violent revolt or quietly retreat, and instead, he chooses a third way, entering into the suffering of the world, identifying with all who are oppressed, marginalized, betrayed, and forgotten, by taking on the cross.

In 2010, I walked down from my house to St. John’s Franklinton to participate in Stations of the Cross, a practice that I had experienced a few times in my evangelical past, but that was never a regular part of my religious experience. Instead of heading into the church, we loaded up into cars and left, driving to places of suffering in the neighborhood, reading and praying a Station of the Cross at each stop. This has since grounded the story of Jesus’s death in our neighborhood. It has become a reenactment of Jesus wrestling with God in the Garden of Gethsemane. A choice to not turn away from the suffering faced by our neighbors, but a moment to enter into it, to face it, to cry out to God, and to gather the strength to echo Jesus’ words as a community, ” Not my will but yours be done,” as we attempt to live in the way of Jesus.

All are invited to join St. John’s Franklinton this Friday, April 3rd at 6pm at 1003 W. Town St. Columbus, Ohio as we journey throughout the neighborhood to pray the “Stations of the Cross.” The Stations are followed by a traditional Good Friday service at 7:15 for those interested in participating.

REFLECTION ON DISCIPLESHIP

25 Mar

By: Melanie Williams

Reposted from the Episcopal Service Corps Lenten Series: http://episcopalservicecorps.org/lentwithesc-mwilliams/

My senior year of college, a well-loved professor asked me what I felt I must do. Not what I felt obligated to do because of forces outside of myself, but what I felt I must do because it was something that claimed me. Because it was an unavoidable part of myself, which when denied, cried out to be recognized and acted upon. Because it was as necessary to me as breathing. I had to think about it for some time.  I’m not always sure if I have a thing like this. But after a while I answered, “I must be with those who suffer.” And after another moment, “Also, I must dance.”

Something we talked about often that year was a practice of holding grief and joy in the same breath. I see this practiced every week within the various congregations of St. John’s in Franklinton where we sing praises to God after gathering prayer requests about loved ones who have cancer, are imprisoned, suffer hunger, are homeless, have died. I see it in my work place when I hear the stories of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, violence, and persecution. They tell me about how they lost a spouse, a limb, a child, and follow it by their gratitude for being alive.

It’s far easier for me to doubt God in the midst of suffering. To critique God for God’s seeming indifference and silence. If justice is meant to come, why not now? Why the delay? This year has been characterized by this kind of wrestling with God. But when I do this, I think I am forgetting who God is and where God resides. Our God is the one who came to earth and died.

Isaiah says Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Jesus was consistently among the suffering and suffered himself. I love the picture of Jesus we see in John when he says, “Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say – ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” A similar scenario happens when Jesus is hanging on the cross. One of the criminals being crucified with him cries out to him, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and save us!” But instead, Jesus remains in suffering until death. And in this, God’s glorification is complete and the saving act accomplished.

What brings me hope, what pulls me back into faith, what moves me to dance and know joy in the midst of suffering is this strange comfort that God remained in suffering and died. That God continues to be with us in our suffering, that God is also still suffering, and that we too are somehow “filling up what is missing in the sufferings of Jesus” as we suffer with Jesus in our world. And though I am terrified to say it, I think this is the heart of Christian discipleship, that we “fall into the earth and die.” That we live and work and love in the midst of those who suffer, and suffer ourselves because we love. And in the same breath, we remain in hope and joy because we have faith that God is with us, still suffering, until God is “lifted up from the earth, and draws all people to Godself,” lifting up all who suffer with God.