John Lewis Community Services
I had the opportunity this past summer to work in many of the areas of John Lewis Community Services. This was a local site, just a few blocks from the Iowa side of the river. One hundred years ago the Central Community Circle Neighborhood was a thriving area, full of elaborate Victorian homes and wealthy people. Ten years ago it was the center for drugs and gang related crimes in Davenport. Today with the help of John Lewis Community Services, it is making a comeback.
My main responsibility at LJCS was to run the food pantry, but this did not encompass the entirety of my work. In addition to preparing food boxes and updating the database, I worked in the community garden, directed groups of volunteering middle schoolers, read through old records, and anything else the day demanded. There was really no way to prepare for each new day. Every morning I would show up wondering what problems I would encounter and what gifts we would receive. One of my favorite memories from the summer came from one of the last group of youth volunteers. On their last day with us they presented Sister Marilyn, a woman with boundless passion and energy, with an envelope full of their letters thanking her for the experiences they had and over $400 in gift certificates to Shnucks. Just to give some perspective, we would typically spend a little under $200 every few weeks to stock our pantry. I was absolutely shocked not only by their generosity but my own excitement at the prospect of being able to offer fresh meat from the pantry.
The remarkable thing about the John Lewis Community Services is that it is truly an organization that helps itself. Nearly the entire volunteer base is made up of people who live in the community and use the resources. Even some of the staff found their jobs through initially needing one of John Lewis's services. It is simply astonishing to see how integrated into the community itself JLCS is. For the most part, people do not merely come in for a few hours of volunteerism; instead, the workers there live the organization. They have taken the initiative to restore their community to the safe, friendly place it used to be.
I was amazed how much I learned about myself as well. True, there were some days where I was tested, hauling rocks from the hospital and hay for the garden, but I was surprised to discover my own strength. I was able to spend time and develop relationships with people I never thought I could really get to know. Years ago I was positive I was going into medical school but six months ago I wasn't so sure. My time at JLCS has really helped me to understand my gifts, strengths and calling in this life, and I am grateful for everyone I have met along the way. They will certainly not be far from my thoughts during these next few years when I decide where I am to go next.