By Jasmine E. Crenshaw; February 11, 2020
Why We Serve
“You ask me to give you a motto. Here it is: SERVICE. Let this word accompany each of you throughout your life. Let it be before you as you seek your way and your duty in the world. May it be recalled to your minds if ever you are tempted to forget it or set it aside, it will not always be a comfortable companion but it will always be a faithful one. And it will be able to lead you to happiness, no matter what the experiences of your lives are. Never have this word on your lips, but keep it in your hearts. And may it teach you not only to do good but to do it simply and humbly.” -Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Thoughts for Our Times
Every January, Fellows from many chapters of our organization commit to one day of service in their respective communities to help commemorate Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s birthday and celebrate his values around service, as evidenced by the quote above. In the past three years alone, ASF of Alabama worked with the Hands On River Region to prepare emergency kits for the homeless, repair a vacant home for purchase in the city of Bessemer with the Birmingham chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and sorted food donations for distribution through the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama.
This year, Fellows and Fellows for Life gathered around the ASF network in Alabama, Detroit, Houston, New Orleans, and Tulsa. Here’s a quick recap of some of those projects.
On January 13th, one day before Dr. Schweitzer’s birthday, 4 Fellows from the Detroit chapter worked with a local apartment complex, Piquette Square Veteran Complex, to distribute fresh and frozen produce to residents there. This project, according to Dennis Archambault, the Executive Director of the chapter, served as “an opportunity for Fellows to plan a collective community service outside of their individual projects.”
Their project aimed to demonstrate one of the issues that plague low-income veterans and similar communities: food insecurity, and to connect the legacy of service Dr. Schweitzer and Dr. King both shared. Director Archambault explained that the Fellows’ project was “the culmination of several conversations around the philosophical underpinnings of localized humanitarian work.”
On January 20th, 37 Fellows from the Houston-Galveston chapter completed two service projects, one at an MLK Day of Service event coordinated by the Human Rights Campaign and other nonprofits and the other at a Step Healthy Day food distribution event.
While at the MLK Day of Service, the Fellows assisted with unloading donations, sorting through clothing, and packing them up. Additionally, the Fellows assembled care packages for homeless youth and young adults at Montrose Grace Place, a local organization that provides housing and support to this specific population in the city of Houston.
At the Step Healthy event, some of the Junior Fellows of the chapter who spoke Spanish assisted with registering recipients of the food, while the rest helped facilitate the packaging, organization, and distribution of food.
When discussing the impact of these service projects on the communities served, Dr. Gabrielle Hansen, the Executive Director of the chapter, had this to say:
“The two Houston Galveston Albert Schweitzer Service Day projects increased awareness about nutrition and food for food desert populations across Houston, as well as raised awareness about the issues facing homeless youth and those stigmatized because of their sexual orientation and gender. The service projects both created tangible impact through food distribution and through clothing and care packages for those in need, representing the Schweitzer spirit of service, compassion and the mission of responding to direct, front line gaps in basic, fundamental health and general health care access.”
The Alabama chapter held its Day of Service on January 24th leading up to their 2020 New Fellow Orientation Weekend. When it came to deciding which nonprofit the Fellows would partner with on the project, there was no better choice than Pathways, a local nonprofit that assists homeless women and children in the city of Birmingham. One of the 2019 Alabama Fellows, Heather Johnson, is currently completing her yearly service project with the organization, helping them create a center for the homeless children there. “This year was the first time that our day of service project coincided with a Fellow’s ASF project”, Kristin Boggs, the Executive Director, explained. “It was great to see others rally around one of their own peers to support her larger effort.”
Thirteen Alabama Fellows, four from the newest class of 2020 and nine from the 2019 class, prepared space within the Pathways shelter for their new childcare center to be placed. The Fellows cleared out and cleaned one of their multipurpose rooms, and re-organized their clothing closet items into a new space. Some of the Fellows served lunch to residents and ran a winter clothing giveaway for the members of the homeless community, while others continued to sort through winter clothing. As a final task, the Fellows selected toys for the three childcare center rooms from donations. When explaining the impact of this project on the population Pathways serve, Boggs stated that this project was “a great example of how ASF establishes connections across disciplinary and school boundaries, providing a hands-on way for students to learn more about community-based organizations and solutions to complex social problems beyond their individual project site, as well.”
To view photos from all of the chapter projects, please visit this link.