by Matt Dyer
CHICOPEE, Mass. - The Elms College Cross Country Program completed a five day service trip to H.O.M.E. (Homeworkers Organized for More Employment) Inc. in Orland, Maine last week. H.O.M.E. is a nonprofit organization founded in 1970 dedicated to keeping and enhancing the quality of life for low-income and homeless families. Through services, stewardship of resources, and shared responsibility, H.O.M.E. aims to bring forth new possibilities for food, jobs, shelter, low-income housing, education, and self-sufficiency. In addition to building skills used in the job setting, H.O.M.E. also enjoys the responsibility of educating people on issues vital to sustaining an equitable society.
The team's service included meal preparation in the local soup kitchen that serves reduced cost lunch for $2.50 to residents, employees, and local community members, wood splitting, hauling, and stacking fuel for the site's 3 boilers and numerous wood stoves that provide heat and hot water to the community, a blood pressure and wound care clinic for community members performed by the six team members that are part of the Elms College School of Nursing, shoe repair and leather work with the local cobbler, multiple art projects that are sold at H.O.M.E.'s gift shop, childcare at the local daycare and day camp which took trips to hike, Craig's Pond, Cadillac Beach in Acadia, and a go-cart and rope course in Ellsworth, trench digging to help begin the process of starting a watering system in a greenhouse, weed wacking, lawn mowing, and much more.
More valuable than the work performed was the knowledge gained and the relationships started. The individuals living at H.O.M.E. despite living in and through tough circumstances were anything but shy in sharing their stories, the stories of the families, and in sharing their joy about how they are going to improve their lives moving forward. The number of times that team members remarked, "everybody is so nice here" was too many to be counted. It gave credence to the fact that the "homeless" population here may be down, but they are far from out. It also gave even more credence to the value of community, shared goals, shared work, and shared support. We feel blessed to have had this opportunity to represent Elms College and continue to carry out our institution's mission of service. This trip has brought us together and bonded us and will help us down the road this season and down the road in our lives.