Wow! I cannot believe that we are already half-way through the Summer Fellowship Program. 5 weeks since my start I am even more confident that the experiences this opportunity has afforded me are ones I will always cherish.
Something that was immediately impressed upon me when I began working with Neighborhood Services, Inc. was the way in which their organization is entirely people and mission oriented. NSI’s unwavering organizational value of serving with kindness and respect truly begins with the leadership of the food pantry’s Executive Director, Martin Butler. Each morning I listen to Martin as he speaks with the day’s group of volunteers. He speaks with such earnestness; telling the team “we have to love our neighbors the moment they walk through that door”.
Over the course of the last 4 weeks I have surveyed 234 neighbors. 100% of the survey respondents agree that they are treated with respect by NSI’s staff/volunteers. Some people may argue that this statistic doesn’t hold that great of significance. However, in my conversations with neighbors I have learned that when seeking help through social services our neighbors are not always treated with respect or lack of judgement. Therefore, when nearly all of the neighbors we surveyed cited some aspect of the organization’s welcoming atmosphere or caring/empathetic workers as being the thing they like most about the pantry or the reason they choose to come to this pantry I believe that qualitative data speaks volumes.
Martin and Matt (NSI’s Pantry Coordinators) undoubtedly facilitate one of the most impressively run non-profit organizations that I have ever had the opportunity to work for. This is something that our neighbors have even reported in their survey responses! One neighbor wrote, ” They are truly steadfast in the fight to address hunger and other issues perpetuated by poverty and inequality in our Columbus community. This fellowship has been a tremendous learning experience for countless reasons, but I think one of the greatest being the development of my own personal philosophy of organizational leadership. Martin continually communicates to me the importance of forming partnerships. Last week he had me come along with him to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank (one of NSI’s largest partners/supporters). Here I met someone who coordinates Lutheran Social Services’ Food Pantries as well as workers from Nationwide who were volunteering at Mid-Ohio for the day to shoot a video ultimately to promote civic engagement.
Over my past 3 years attending The Ohio State University I have really come to call Columbus my new home. My engagement on campus and in the greater Columbus area has allowed me to experience something that I think is so unique–the feelings of unity/pride that exists among our incredibly diverse city. I experience this at the pantry on a daily basis whether it is connecting with a neighbor because of the Ohio State apparel they are sporting or talking to a child about the Columbus City School they attend and sharing with them my experience working at CCS too. Each day, however, when I go to input the day’s data from the surveys into my Excel spreadsheets and reflect on my conversations with neighbors, I am affronted with the reality that there are divides among our united city. In order to create truly transformational change in Columbus, our city must understand the importance of bringing growth and development to all of our communities.