Cass Community Social Services, 500 Biblical Meatballs & 375 Memorial Challah Onion Rolls.

RE-POST from April 2014:

There are at least six, solid, Biblical references regarding meatballs.

“Hi, we were wondering…”

I received a significant, mid-week invitation from a dear, don’t-get-to-see-often, friend. It was one of those jump-to-it, second-chance, “you don’t want to miss this,” opportunities. The last time I rode along became a scary freeway ice-dancing event featuring sliding cars, sudden lane-swerving, and frightening brake pumping. A few near-accidents in, a committee of concerned participants made the reluctant decision to head home before reaching our destination. It was a hard call to make, because individually and as a group, we don’t take volunteering lightly. In this case, it was clear a no-show would have serious consequences, but the severity of the travel conditions could not be ignored.

That’s how a recent early Saturday morning found me munching a Clif protein bar, hanging in the far parking lot of Sam’s Club, waiting on another ride.

In mission work there are sometimes great gaps of knowledge. This one wasn’t much of a mystery. We knew where we were headed, and what we would do. Still, the informational brochure I was handed filled in a lot of unknown blanks in my perception of the project. The impressive scale of Cass Community Social Services in Detroit is something to behold. The volunteer schedule is equally as impressive.

The Saturday kitchen schedule was filled by a church confirmation class from Alpena, a church youth group from Northville, the Detroit chapter of One Brick, some Michigan State-ers on spring break, and a women’s church group from Tecumseh. It started off slowly, but at one point I counted 24 people in the kitchen.

We had arrived believing we would be making sandwiches, and left not having made a single one. The new first order of kitchen business was slicing semi-frozen flanks of meat. The first problem I encountered was a lack of latex free gloves. By default, I became the dishwasher.

A volunteer named Bobby, who has been washing dishes at Cass for 9 years, so far, demonstrated the basics. Food down this shoot; rinse, load, fill, sanitize, stack, and re-shelve. I really wanted a bit more instruction from Bobby, but he wasn’t inclined to give it. He walked away and I proceeded to process dishes, utensils, pots and pans for two hours straight. Bobby would fly by every once in a while, saying the same thing, “You’re doin’ alright!”

During one of those passes, another volunteer pointed to my cleaning stash and requested an aluminum scrubbie. When I turned for it, Bobby was in my way, so I asked him to please hand it over. He didn’t. “The scrubbie,” I reiterated, thinking perhaps he hadn’t heard my quiet voice in the ruckus. He just stood there, shaking his head at us. I tried again, carefully explaining and renaming the item, “She would like that scouring pad, please.” Finally, he cracked a semi-smile and pointed behind her. There, at the exact spot where the question had originated, in a rather obvious place, was another one. 

In those two minutes, my pile had grown to overflowing the staging-space allotted to dirty items. but went back to work with a conquer-this-mountain attitude. Eventually, I was relieved of dish duty. I didn’t want to be relieved, but Miss Lonetta – head cook, kitchen orchestrator/coordinator, menu planner – insisted. She handed me two bowls with bananas, oranges, and grapes, pushed open a door and told me to go sit outside. A few minutes later, I became the fruit sharer, offering fruit and fresh-air seats to the also forced-to-take-a-break cooking crew.

The beef slicers also chopped a lot of broccoli and garlic, grated carrots and cheese, made rice, cracked dozens of eggs, and melted butter. From 9:00 AM until Noon, the principles hustled us along. It was about then that some of the volunteer shifts had ended. There were only about 6 of us left. Lonetta told me to go grab some parchment paper, and pointed in the general direction supplies. I wasn’t exactly sure where to look, but eventually I spied, grabbed, and delivered.

Then she wanted to know why I wasn’t making meatballs, with the few remain-ers who were also running out of time. I explained about the latex, and she gleefully cried. “Grab an apron and suit up!” One of the volunteer groups had shown up with a box of latex-free gloves. On my first grab, it was interesting to discover my right hand was reluctant to roll anything. It was sorely sore from squeezing the hand-held faucet. Still, I did my best with the sticky stuff. Out of 500 meatballs needed, jumping in at the last minute, I probably rolled somewhere around 50.

During the course of the morning and early afternoon, Lynetta changed her meal plan three times while we were prepping. Due to a lack of peppers, Pepper Steak turned into Steak ala Cass, which is actually pepper steak minus peppers, plus onions and mushrooms. Ten trays of garlic bread were prepped for the oven. For the most part, those who come for Cass meals, don’t eat vegetables if they’re presented as a side. Miss Lonetta devised a way to sneak them in. Meatballs were beefed up with carrots, broccoli, and onion, and stretched with crumbs, eggs and cheese. At the last minute, we learned a vegetarian entry would also be needed. We reviewed ingredients available, put our thinking caps on, and came up with a very improvised veggie stir-fry.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: each person’s mission experience will differ. I can’t say this is an accurate reflection for anyone else but me, but, the 30-second do-this dishwashing brief, the here’s-two-bowls-go-sit-outside directive, and the frantic search for parchment were unnerving in a successful, hyped-up sort of way. There is something to be said for being available and able to fumble around, change directions, and do whatever has to be done. It brings a little self-pride, a little coping confirmation, and an absolutely miniscule idea of what may be expected next time.

My unofficial three-part summary of Cass Kitchen philosophy:

Be aware of your surroundings.

You can find whatever is needed, if you look.

If you can’t find it, improvise.

Quote for the week:

Cass Community Social Services: http://casscommunity3.wordpress.com/

Philippians 2:4: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Out-do one another in showing honor.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Grafted (3 Chicks with Sticks)

We double tooled and took a short trek to Chapel Street.

The explanation and demonstration made sense. Using the tools on-hand made sense.

I like sense. I like adaptation, too.

Teams spread down the sidewalks searching for X marks and O marks, and root-bagged trees that weren’t rejectedly rolled into the street.

There we were; three chicks with sticks staring at an off-center X over a shallow-welled median with a spade and a square, a spade and a rake, a spade and a pick-ax, a tree and a plan.

Fresh from a mini tutorial, feeling feisty, we set about it.

We measured and consulted, measured some more, got a rhythm going.

After a while, there two piles of dirt, a pile of skimmed grass, and a hole.

The hole wasn’t exactly round. We fixed that.

The hole was a little too deep. We fixed that.

The ball was a little too heavy for advised two rollers, so we used three to get it going and in.

We eyeball straightened our charge (assumed a tulip tree by the botanical tag “tulipifera”) from three directions.

Lacking a knife to break the binds, we waited, short-shoveling handfuls of soft soil in and around to perfect stance while assuring our homeowner we were enjoying ourselves, and it wasn’t as hard as it seemed.

Root bag ripped, unrecyclables corralled, wires de-bent, we ran into a problem. Everything was fine, until exposure. Then, suddenly, it might be all wrong, or it might still be right.

Lopsided, rooted more heavily on one side than the other, not knowing which three-fingers-below measure was true.

There were two knuckles; one previously hidden in burlap garb, angled slight degrees from the one we had been focused on.

Stem straight, angled roots uneven in a way that wouldn’t promote stability. Rocking the sapling in favor of rooting, the stem was oddly askew.

That’s when we learned something new. The tree and the root were established together post graft. Combining the best of both, strong roots, tall tree, for immediate success and future longevity.

Consultants called. Though our true root was a slight inch higher than preferred, no retraction was required. Adaptation meant lightly packed stability soil up a little higher, and cautiously tamping air-pocket caverns where water could possibly pool and encourage rot.

We raised our berm a little higher, for better protection, and watered away from the roots. When we were finished, it passed muster, earning a blue sleeve of advertorial protection.

And that was it; about three hours later, including stand-up breakfast pastries and coffee, finding the right Zone assignment, name tags, gift bags, tool toting, street scouring, instruction, demonstration and the command to go to it. We’d done what we’d set out to do, added our imprint as one group of three in a group of One Brick Volunteers planting one tree among 120 goaled.

My best guess is that it took nearly 200 people from many different community groups, instructors teaching, volunteers planting, and forestry-minded reviewing to reach that goal.

While that might seem impressive, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 500,000 trees lost during a three decade Dutch Elm blight from 1950-1980.

Since 1989, The Greening of Detroit has orchestrated placement and replacement of 85,000 trees. Mathematically, that’s still a significant environmental shortage.

There are still at least dozen upcoming The Greening of Detroit events, and there’s room for you, too.

It all adds up. Make a difference in Detroit.

Quote for the Week:

It doesn’t have to be one or the other  04 14 2015

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links: 

The Greening of Detroit: http://www.greeningofdetroit.com/get-involved/volunteer/

Urban Forests: https://www.americanforests.org/conservation-programs/urban-forests/

Top 22 benefits of trees: https://www.treepeople.org/resources/tree-benefits

On Twitter:

#OneBrickDetroit    @GreeningDetroit    #SocialForestry

Better, Pickles

While most people are wrapping up presents, wrapping up the year, I have found myself a good way off-cycle. Having already started my new start in October, I missed the thankfulness kick-off. With Christmas racing up, I’m far-behind in spiritual matters.

Charity in passing has been this season’s theme. My regular yearly list is lacking check boxes, but I’ve been catching opportunities here and there. Food Gatherers were in the right place at the right time last Saturday. A $10.00 donation seemed just about right. I planned to get cash at check-out, but as I walked the aisles with my coupons and sales flyer, I decided to get personal.

I’m not actually sure how the organization prefers to receive their donations, but I choose to shop. I shopped as budget-follower, as if I were shopping for my own holiday table. I shopped as if I were the one who longed to set a celebration table, as if I would be beaming at the gathered, providing the feast.

$10.00 wasn’t going to make that happen. Doubled, there was possibility. There are foods that always speak to me of holidays. They’re not the normal ones, or the big ones; they’re the indulgent ones. Mini gherkins, black olives, pickled beets, marinated mushrooms; specialties passed over in favor of basics. I settled on smaller versions of olives and pickles, at 99 cents and $1.50. Per placard, the cost-per-ounce for less was more. It did not make economic sense, but spending less meant buying more.

The canned vegetable aisle required study. Each brand featured a special; none of them seemed to be the same kind. Fiesta corn, red beans, sweet peas with pearl onions, green beans made it into my cart. $7.00 in, around the corner pasta and tuna were pulled. 2 bags of macaroni at 50 cents each and one can at $1.00. Tomato sauce was 1.75. Just under $10.00, I had nothing like a feast.

Pre-made, shelf-stable pie crust and a can of fruit filling won over dough mixes and pumpkin, which would have required eggs and oil, milk and spices. I chose cherry for its festive red. Those two items took up as nearly much of my budget as the first ten, but I wasn’t going to put them back.

Packaged potatoes, the just-add-water type were a compromise. Fresh fruits and vegetables spoil. It’s as simple as that. One envelope seemed so small, so I started to reach for a second. A different brand’s ‘buy two, get one free’ caught my eye. I took in three traditionally butter flavored packets at $2.00 total.

$1.63 shy of my budget, I realize I was off-cycle again. Meat and poultry, fresh or frozen, are also a short-lived, requiring refrigeration. Ham in a can would do. Don’t think for a second that I was able to find a $1.63 ham in a can. The smallest and lowest priced was $5.49. I scanned the package knowing the ingredient list would be the same as the other higher priced offerings. Debating with my self is practically a sport, these days. I pulled out my contractor estimate philosophy, and decided a ham is a ham much as a fuse box is a fuse box. Don’t need the fanciest, just need it to perform.

$3.86 over budget. I could have re-shelved the un-holiday-like tuna, one bag of pasta, and the fiesta corn. I could have slid the gherkins back into the display. But, I couldn’t bring myself to. Instead I grabbed another can of indulgent olives, thinking, “why not?” Closer to $25.00 isn’t going to break me any more than $20.00.

I imagine the volunteer sorter wondering what kind of person buys frivolities for a food pantry. It’s one who doesn’t think giving involves only basics; one who believes special is important, too. I realize the likelihood of my festive planning unit materializing in one home as a romanticized Norman Rockwell feast is slim.

I just hope that little-bitty jar of pickles makes someone really smile.

Quote for the Week:

To call it charity 12 09 2014

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

1 Carrot Way: http://www.foodgatherers.org/

Pickle Timeline: http://www.nyfoodmuseum.org/_ptime.htm

Giving is Good, and Good for you: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you

Amazon Platform

I may have mentioned this once or twice, or a few times more than that.

That’s how it goes when I get excited, entrenched, enthusiastic. I’ve found an organization that needs me, even when I can’t get to many of the many events scheduled during the dark months of Michigan winter.

Activated in October 2011, One Brick Detroit is part of a larger, nation-wide 501(c)3 non-profit organization headquartered in San Francisco, California. In June 2014, I made a long-term commitment to an organization that doesn’t require one.

Listing over 229 calendar events since 2011, One Brick Detroit has been successfully serving Detroit and the Metropolitan Area by scheduling an average of 6 events per month.

One Brick provides support to local non-profit and community organizations by creating a unique, social and flexible volunteer environment for those interested in making a concrete difference in the community. We enable people to get involved, have an impact and have fun, without the requirements of individual long-term commitments.

‘Commitment-free volunteering’ allows One Brick members to choose when to volunteer, rather than having to make commitments for a certain number of volunteer hours, or agreeing to be available every week at a specific time.

We create a friendly and social atmosphere around volunteering, and after each volunteer event — which typically lasts only 3 to 4 hours — we invite volunteers to gather at a local restaurant or café where they can get to know one another in a relaxed social setting.

One Brick chapters are 100% volunteer-run! We have no employees…we don’t even maintain offices! But we do have a lot of dedicated volunteers who make it all happen. We’re very proud of that and thankful for the wonderful, caring individuals who arrive at each One Brick Detroit event ready to step-up to whatever tasks are needed.

Having been given the creative freedom to be the representative voice behind the One Brick Detroit weekly newsletter, a contributor to the One Brick Detroit Facebook page, and as Marketing and Publicity Director for One Brick Detroit, I’d like to point out the one little thing that makes what I am going to suggest matter.

Southeastern Michigan is not much different than the rest of the country. We’ve had hard times, we’ve had large needs. The thing is, need is always there. Before the holidays, during the holidays, after the holidays, One Brick Detroit will be helping.

As we enter the giving season, giving thanks and gifts, there is simple way to help us do what we love to do: volunteer, help others, meet like-minded people, and make our little corner of the world a friendlier place.

So, here it is: my first blog platform pitch:

Amazon Loves One Brick!  When you shop using our special link Amazon donates 7% of the total to support our work.

Please bookmark this link: onebrick.org/amazon, and use it each time you shop.

Click here for more details.

_________________________________________________________________

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Visit my chapter, and see for yourself what’s so awesome about One Brick and One Brick Detroit:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/One-Brick-Detroit/108983815861413?fref=photo

Website: http://detroit.onebrick.org/

If you don’t usually shop Amazon on line, there is another easy donation avenue open: http://www.onebrick.org/IL1B

Quote for the Week:

It’s so much easier to commit 11 25 2014

Evolution, Part 5: Wind + Down

I wouldn’t say I was feeling down. I couldn’t call it disappointment, either.

It was a very good day. It just wasn’t the day I had imagined.

I was pleased to have kept my commitment; pleased to have made a small difference.

The spiritual service moved me to tears. I managed to hold back most of the lonely decompression that follows the end of a mission.

Community disengagement is a let-down; leaving, returning to steady, known apathy.

The short-set mingling morphed into tired walking; across the street to cars, and rest rooms and t-shirt purchases.

 

I cannot tell you it was a well-thought out thought; it wasn’t.

I cannot tell you why I said what I said, feeling the way I did.

I cannot tell you I knew the person just a step behind me.

I cannot tell you I recognized them; not from work, not from lunch, not from praise.

I just skipped a step, falling back a foot, turned and said, “This may have been one of my best birthdays, ever.”

I didn’t realize we’d stopped walking; we were talking.

Quickly: about birthdays and kites, tulips and art, a fight two sisters had in their mother’s hospital room.

The leaving chill evaporated; son-powered enthusiasm soaked in.

Suddenly we were last in line, thanking GOD and Jesus for a beautiful day.

Followed by a question with the only possible answer: Yes.

 

We sat down there, in a day-safe neighborhood, in the dwindling late afternoon, deep in portfolio.

A simple medium; graphite and recycled paper = pencils and abandoned pages.

I’ve never mastered the achievement of negative space in any medium.

Pencil, pen, crayon, watercolor – all take foresight. A clear tear is not easily added to a pencil portrait.

Devils that didn’t look like devils, doorways to the wrong place, wallpaper with eyes, a gang logo, a sister, a mourner, a life; questionable looks from passersby.

 

I stopped when I saw her, speaking to me of loss and prayer and grief and release; echoing loneliness caught by loneliness.

I didn’t ask who she was; simply served a compliment.

A few pages later, the counterbalance caught me. Separated, two portraits sharing one instance, one hand on each shoulder.

I knew they belonged together. When offered, I cried.

I knew they belonged together. Speechless to the insistence, I cried a little harder.

 

“If it’s going to make you sad, make you cry, I won’t ask you to take it. If it will bring you joy, please…”

 

I looked up from the shadows, buildings by setting sun; patience was waiting, not signaling time to go.

But we knew it was, so carefully, the gift was rolled; secured, presented.

We hugged and hugged again, and when my breath came, I grasped for more –

With nothing to offer, except for this; “I hope to see you again, someday.”

To which was replied; “It’s all up to Him. GOD’s will be done.”

 

So, I fought the breeze, and crossed the street, and wiped the wind tears away;

I could not, then, and still cannot answer; “Whom was ministering to whom?”

 

Quote for the week:

Sometimes we must plan in advance barry curry art oct 1 2014

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Beginning Charcoal:  http://www.artinstructionblog.com/charcoal-drawing-basics-techniques-for-beginners

Detailed: Interpretation of Art; http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/36433/art-philosophy-of/36256/The-interpretation-of-art

Art as Therapy: http://medicalarttherapy.com/using-art-as-an-outlet/