During the week spanning from June 25 to 29, Voices for Earth Justice was humming with volunteers. At the end of the week, these volunteers had devoted a total of 587 hours of their time to VEJ. While we had large number helpful people from multiple different organizations, one program in particular, Young Neighbors In Action, spent the entire week at our site.
The group from YNIA, consisting of seven high school students and two adult chaperons, hailed from Dayton, Ohio, and brought much more than their hard-working hands to VEJ. They brought their spirits. Effusing energy into the structure, gardens, and atmosphere of VEJ, this group’s aura beamed with a light of kindness, generosity, and ingenuity. Together, they complimented each other’s strengths and laughed with gusto.
Shelia and Sonia, the fabulous chaperone duo, balanced the lightness of a fun time with the working spirit of doers. Their photo-shoot interjections brought a whimsy to the day, as well as much needed breaks between raking leaves, cleaning and sorting the Hope House, and painting.
A few students in the group became especially interested in the re-envisioning the front room of Hope House, which prior to their work functioned as a storage room. After clearing out the space, the group used donated paint, roller attachments, and door handles to give the space an inviting freshness. Further, they laid down alphabet-themed foam tiles provided by cofounder and board member Sister Janet Stankowski to create a clean, fun space.
Not only were these volunteers creative rock-stars, this group engaged and played with our frequent visitors: the neighborhood kids. While making God’s Eyes and splitting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, these volunteers took the time to listen, to be present, and to laugh with our neighbors. They brought a spirit of intentionality, openness, and fun to hot days of hard work.
After a long week of sweating and paint-splattering, Friday brought a day of finishing projects and reflection. On the last day, YNIA came to VEJ with the theme of “Love.” Inspired by Pope Francis’s message of radical love, they showed up with hearts overfloweth with this message ready to conclude their week.
The celebratory finale consisted of bubbles, ice cream, and reflections. Giggles of both volunteers and neighbors mingled in the air to create a magical moment filled with shimmering bubbles and chocolate-smeared smiles. Last minute photos were matched with goodbye hugs and thanks. As their vans drove away, carrying away some new, dear friends, their spirit stays with us at VEJ, inspiring our work. Their presence touched my heart, and for that I am thankful.