MLK Day in Northern Michigan

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, FoodCorps service members in Northern Michigan, Julia Paige and Lindsay Hall, joined others across the nation to set out on a National Day of Service. They took on the task of preparing a meal at The Goodwill Inn, an emergency shelter located in Traverse City, MI that provides shelter, three meals a day and employment assistance to families and individuals experiencing homelessness.

Lindsay, Julia, and their co-volunteer served spaghetti and meatballs, solicited salad, cut up cauliflower, and bowled berries for the guests at the Goodwill Inn. Below the two interview each other about their experience.

J: How did you feel the guests received the meal?

L: The meal seemed well received by the guests. Some guests expressed specific concerns about their diet and the meal that was being served, but we were more than happy to accommodate to their preferences. We met them with a smile, and received the same in return which was really nice. I think breaking down the barriers between server and those being served is really important. We’re all human, and it’s nice to acknowledge that basic connection. I’d also like to mention that not one guest went by without saying thank you. I think that says a lot.

J: What did you think of the food being prepared at the Goodwill Inn?

L: The food at the Goodwill Inn was thoughtfully prepared and served. The quality of the food was noticeable as our volunteer coordinator instructed, “Don’t serve anything you wouldn’t serve your family.” They obviously hold their work to high standards and aim to treat their guests with dignity and respect. I guess, in short, if I was allowed to jump in line and eat with them, I would! And, not to be Miss Nutrition, but all five food groups were present creating a well-balanced (MyPlate) meal! I was also really pleased to see the amount of donations in the kitchen. The fresh fruit and desserts we were serving that day all came from donations to the Inn. I was happy to see so much tangible evidence of support from the community.

J: How do you feel that your actions honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr?

L: I think he would be proud to see a community coming together and supporting each other. Speaking for myself at least, treating each other with kindness and respect strengthens us and encourages us to be better individuals-the exact qualities MLK stood for. It seems like that would be an easy thing to do, but I guess that’s not always the case. I appreciate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for voicing such a strong opinion and call to action towards being a good human being. He would be proud to see all of us around the country joining forces to take a day of action and not just a day off.

L: Was there anything challenging about this volunteer shift?

J: It was challenging to get the crusted noodles cleaned off the pan…haha kidding (but it actually was). In all honesty it was challenging for me to serve the guests some of the packaged baked goods that had been donated. I knew they were full of preservatives and syrups and hydrogenated oils – definitely not something I would serve to my family! However, I understand that those are the only kinds of desserts that get donated to them, since they last so long. Lindsay and I tried to push the fruit as a dessert option instead, and our co-volunteer said he was surprised by how many guests took fruit!

L: What is one takeaway from this experience or something new that you learned about your community?

J: I was inspired by a man who helped us prepare our meal (Mark). He is a working father of two who lives over 30 minutes away, but he makes the effort every other Monday to donate his time to the guests at the Goodwill Inn. His dedication to help struck me. Often times, after a long day at the schools I just go home and veg out with my friends. I could easily be like Mark and take two evenings a month to help others instead of watch Netflix.  I guess one thing that I will take away from this experience is that donating your time is easy and rewarding- it just takes dedication.

L: How does this correlate to your FoodCorps service term?

J: Good question Lindsay… This correlates to my service term because MLK was a man who believed in building bridges between communities. That is something I am trying to do at my schools everyday. Building bridges between teachers, parents, farmers, and students (to name a few). The work that the Goodwill Inn carries out builds bridges as well, between businesses that have food to donate, community members who have time to donate, and those experiencing homelessness who have a need to be filled. It’s really amazing what they do there with food that would be otherwise wasted. It makes me proud of my community.