As you can tell by the title, this article is going to be about my spring break trip to Los Angeles, California! This wasn't any regular spring break trip, however, it was a plunge program with my school's campus ministry. When I first found out about the plunge program and the trips that they held I was very eager to participate and signed up immediately. It's wonderful that my school has this program for students to immerse themselves in Vincentian service and participate in a great cause.
During the trip we stayed in the Skid Row area of Downtown LA at the Cardinal Manning Center. CMC is a homeless shelter that offers a program for men to transition from living in the streets to finding their home.
We spent the week volunteering at multiple places such as: Maryvale, Hotel Dieu, The Hippie Kitchen, Meals on Wheels, and Midnight Mission, as well as connecting with members of the fellow Vincentian family.
Maryvale was the first orphanage in Los Angeles established by the Daughters of Charity. The organization takes care of orphaned, abused or neglected children. At Maryvale we played and had lunch with a group kids from the orphanage. It was great spending the afternoon playing basketball and just making sure the kids had a fun time.
Hotel Dieu is pretty much a senior citizens home that also doubles up as the Meals on Wheels headquarters in Los Angeles. Meals on Wheels is a nationwide organization that focuses on providing meals to those unable to make their own food or go and get it. What is great about Meals on Wheels is that no senior citizen has to worry about not being able to pay for their own meals because the fee ranges from free to no charge depending on what each person can contribute. At Hotel Dieu we played bingo with the senior citizen residents and helped out in the kitchen to prepare the meals for delivery. After the meals were ready, we were each split into route groups and sent off with a driver to go around Los Angeles delivering meals.
The two days I participated in Meals on Wheels I probably knocked on 40-50 doors in the West Hollywood Area and about 35 close to the Downtown LA area as well. It was nice to see how appreciate the clients were when we knocked on their door to deliver the food. Some people were really happy to see us because for many the volunteers at Meals on Wheels are the only people they see throughout their day. This portion of our service trip kept reminding me of my grandma. Although, she is very healthy and productive it made me think that all those people have kids and grand kids as well and if they were my grandparents I'd want them to be properly taken care of just the way l'd want my grandma to be.
Another one of our days of service consisted in waking up at 5am to participate in The Midnight Mission of Los Angeles. Their mission is to help those that have lost everything regain their former life again. At the mission we worked during breakfast and we each had a spot behind the counter of the food line to serve the homeless that would be coming in to eat that morning. I was in charge of serving the pancakes and the syrup!
A really fun volunteer experience was working at the Catholic Worker's Hippie Kitchen in Skid Row! The Hippie Kitchen also known as Hospitality Kitchen is pretty much a soup kitchen were people volunteer their time to prepare home cooked meals for the homeless. What is great about the Hippie Kitchen is that it is free and it is opened to anyone who simply wants to get in the line. As a volunteer, I did a variety of tasks such as picking oranges, cutting vegetables, to stirring the extremely large pots they had. The vibes at the Hippie Kitchen were incredible! Everyone was so warm and friendly and they were so happy to have us be there volunteering. The kitchen is full of murals with great messages and they even have a beautiful garden outside in the back with bird cages and where those seeking a meal can sit down and enjoy their time there.
Furthermore, one thing I should mention is that we visited Homeboy Industries during our time there and took a tour of the facility. Homeboy industries is an organization that helps decrease gang activity and recidivism by providing support, tattoo removal, job training, as well as job placement to ex-gang members. It's wonderful to me that everyone there has been a gang member before and they are their because they want to change and better themselves. It's great that they use their enterprise to benefit and provide a mean of improvement to those who seek it. Definitely recommend checking out their Homegirl Cafe, and Homeboy Diner if anyone is ever in the Los Angeles area. The food is great, and it supports an incredible cause.
Overall, my spring break experience was amazing. It was my first time spending my spring break volunteering and I am completely glad that I did. It felt so great knowing that I was contributing my free time in a productive manner doing service to help the Los Angeles community. Not only that, but it also happened to be my birthday during the week. Los Angeles, to much surprise has a homeless population of around 44,000 people. It is insane to think that so many people are just living in the streets without a shelter. The trip was a very eye opening and humbling experience. I am also glad I had the opportunity to have gone with an amazing group of people who I had the opportunity to get to know throughout the week. Everyone on the trip showed true compassion and love of god with the people we helped and they each taught me something individually.
P.S shout out to my plunge group for surprising me the day of my birthday with a cake!
Thanks for reading!