Spring Break in Denver, Part 2

Originally posted 3/27/17

Hello again!

See Spring Break in Denver, Part 1, if you haven't already, to read about the first few days of my service trip in Denver, Colorado.

Day 4: Food Bank and Story Time

We spent our morning at Food Bank of the Rockies, putting pallets of food together for regional distribution. The difference between a food bank and a food pantry is that a food pantry is local and distributes directly to community members. A food bank, on the other hand, has the facilities to collect, store, and distribute food on a much larger scale. Food banks generally distribute to smaller organizations that will get the food to their community members.

In the afternoon, we toured Women's Bean Project. Women's Bean Project is a non-profit that provides transitional employment and job training for women in poverty. They focus on preparing women with the skills to reenter society, with the end goal of breaking the cycle of poverty.  Their business manufactures a selection of gourmet soups, spices, and other products.

That evening, we prepared and ate dinner with an undocumented immigrant who's been living in Denver for almost 20 years. After the meal, which was incredibly delicious, he shared his story of crossing into the US from Mexico and starting a new life here. It was heartbreaking to listen to and we were all in awe at the amount of courage and perseverance it takes to start over.

Day 5: Painting

We started our day with Brothers Redevelopment, Inc., a non-profit that provides housing and housing-related services to low-income families in the Denver area. We spent about seven hours painting a single-wide mobile home. We had gorgeous weather for painting and everyone was in high spirits throughout the day.

After painting, we headed over to a local church to serve and eat dinner with a group of homeless women through an organization called Women's Homeless Initiative. Different churches rotate to host women, serve them a hot meal, and provide them a bed for the night. I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive about doing this, but I shouldn't have been worried. The women we ate with were very welcoming, and we had many great conversations, with topics ranging from life-stories to guy advice.

Back at our home base, after some reflection time, we ate Tres Leches, a type of cake that's been soaked with three different types of milk. If you haven't, be sure you try it sometime.

Day 6: Final Day in Denver

We started the day at Regis University, a small, Jesuit college in Denver. There, we made sack lunches for homeless folks through an organization named after Fr. Woody. We put together 50 ham and cheese and 50 PB&J sandwiches. After that, we sorted winter clothing accessories by gender and size as part of their Christmas Gift Campaign.

After that, we went on a tour of the campus, where I ran into another person I went to high school with, Maggie. I knew she was at Regis, and we'd texted about meeting up, but we quite literally bumped into each other by chance. Super exciting! After the tour, we ate lunch with a group of Campus Ministry students and staff. I ate lunch with Brian, a Campus Ministry staff member at Regis. Brian was a counselor at a church camp I attended in high school, and it was great to catch up with him and hear from him and the others about what Regis gets to do on campus and in their community.

Our last service experience was at Denver Rescue Mission, where we worked in their food bank. For me, the highlight of our time at DRM was looking through their stock and planning two meals for a soup kitchen to serve in the near future. As a future dietitian, it was an exciting challenge to plan nutritious and tasty meals on a large scale.

After DRM, we were given some free time, so a group of us went on an adventure. We got ice cream, walked around quite a bit, found a mini-cupcake walk-up window, and eventually found dinner at a fantastic market-style restaurant.

Day 7: Home again

We started our drive home very early. We did, however, make a pitstop at VooDoo Doughnuts for breakfast. They specialize in unique and tasty "theme" donuts. I bought an apple fritter, and it was delicious. Everyone was in high spirits for the drive home, and surprisingly, getting back to Minnesota didn't seem to take nearly as long!

Service trips are never quite what you're expecting them to be. My week in Denver challenged me, excited me, and encouraged me. There are so many people out there doing fantastic work, but there are so many more people needed to help. I'd highly encourage anyone who has the opportunity to go on a service trip to do it! You won't regret it!