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As you may or may not know, Rockbridge County is magical. That’s right, magical. You might be wondering how I can make such an “outlandish” statement. Well, it all started because of a project I am working on as an intern at Campus Kitchen this summer. I am working in cooperation with RARA (Rockbridge Area Relief Association) to map out needy areas of the community and determine accessibility of healthy foods. This project will help identify areas of the county that require more attention from our local pantries.
It started by identifying the areas on a map. That was followed by adding to the map a list of fast food, grocery, and convenience stores. I then developed a survey, which I took to fifteen of the stores in Lexington, Glasgow, Goshen, Natural Bridge, Raphine, and Vesuvius (pretty much anywhere that had people breathing in the vicinity). The survey simply required me to write down what fresh vegetables and fruits, low-fat grains, meats, and dairy products that the store carried along with their prices. I also included a few questions like whether or not the store accepts EBT or has any locally grown food. It was in taking this journey that I found that Rockbridge County is hiding many secrets from you. I have heard students at Washington and Lee complain more than one time about what little Rockbridge County has to offer. I would say it is probably because they were not looking hard enough.
First of all, I stumbled upon a magical little waterfall called Cedar Falls while driving through Vesuvius. Vesuvius is actually a hidden town so you may not know a lot about it. I drove through windy streets, up mountains, and finally into a little valley surrounded by hills. The houses were few but not too far between and I can only assume people in them must lead the ultimate quiet nature loving lives to live among that beautiful lush greenery. I think it is where the Keebler elves have their tree, in fact. I am almost certain. But anyways, back to Cedar Falls. There was a little sign sticking out on the road that alerted me to its presence so of course I had to investigate. As I was walking up to it, I realized I was most likely on private property and it almost seemed like a backyard. Regardless, I continued on to find a little waterfall about fourteen feet tall that led into a swimming hole and a stream that trickled down over rocks to form a beautiful little picture.
That first adventure became one of many. From visiting Layne’s Grocery in Natural Bridge and buying their magically delicious homemade jam to sitting under a large dinosaur eating a locally grown peach in Glasgow (what other options are there when your car is broken down?), I can say with complete confidence Rockbridge county is certainly a magical place. My story doesn’t simply end there because I have left out an important part of what makes it such a wonderful place: the people.
My experiences culminated in having the pleasure of being able to observe the wonderful work that RARA does and interact with the people living in many of the places I had visited. I was able to observe the intake process at this food pantry and the method through which it serves the clients. I was fortunate to meet those clients and see some of the specifics of their incomes and benefits. Many of them are in drastic need. It motivated me to continue with my project, knowing I could help these people who often came to the pantry as a last resort. These are not the type of people that some groups would have you believe. They are not lazy, opportunistic, or unworthy of the same opportunities that wealthier people enjoy. I know because I have seen them, but the sad thing is that poverty has silenced many of them. You won’t hear their stories because society says they should be ashamed to tell them and you won’t see their faces unless you are an active member of the community. Be the voice for those who have been silenced living just a stone’s throw away from your neighborhood. Most importantly, get involved and learn about just how magical Rockbridge County can be.
It’s hard to believe that my time as an intern at Campus Kitchens is almost over, I’m headed home for a visit in less than two weeks, and when I return there will only be a couple weeks left of my internship. I went into this summer with one main goal, and that was to really get to know the clients that Campus Kitchens serves. I won’t pretend that I know everyone’s name or everything about them, but I definitely think that I have learned a lot from our clients, and have begun to build what I believe will be strong and long lasting relationships with many of them, in particular I have grown close to many of the kids at the Summer Fun program, and the residents at the Manor.
I expected to love working with the kids at Summer Fun, as the majority of my service as a Bonner Scholar has been with kids in Lexington area schools, (in fact I know several of the kids in the program from previous volunteer experiences). What I did not expect, was how much I have come to love going to the Manor. The first time I went to the Manor, it was because the kid’s programs hadn’t started up yet, so I was just going with on all of the adult shifts. By the end of my first visit, I found that I really enjoyed meeting with the residents and hearing of their life experiences. I have spoken to people at the Manor who hail from all over the country and have had a vast array of different circumstances shape their lives. The time I have spent on the Manor has refreshed the importance of providing both companionship and nutritious meals in order to satisfy the needs of our clients. It has also taught me how much there is to learn from other people and their stories, more than anything else I think it has helped me understand in a deeper sense the importance of the work Campus Kitchens, and other relief agencies like it do for the communities they work in.
This summer I have gained a better understanding of the work Campus Kitchens does, as I have had the opportunity both to witness behind the scenes fundraising and administrative work, and up-front client interaction on a much larger scale. As my internship winds down, and I look toward the next school year, I hope to continue to volunteer at the Manor and at the school year’s version of Summer Fun aka Lexington Office on Youth; so that I can further develop the bonds I have formed with our clients, and continue to learn more from and about them.
Here at Washington and Lee University the fiscal year ends June 30. In going with that schedule, that means it is time for us at CKWL to reflect on another year gone by. This year has seen some incredible milestones, and the future continue to looks bright. So let’s reflect on 2011-2012 and look to the future.
Last year started out great. We’d just received news that CKWL was receiving a $25,000 grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation to support our Weekend Backpack Snack Program and the purchase of a vehicle to call our own. Tomas and Sarah shared in the excitement when we purchased a new to us 2009 Volkeswagon Routan.
In September our Weekend Backpack Snack Program was able to expand to include both Central Elementary and Waddell Elementary School. Manly Memorial Baptist Church adopted Central Elementary School to pack and deliver backpacks weekly. The youth group from Lexington Baptist Church packed all the rest!
In October our CKWL contingent hit the road. Alvin Thomas ’14, Jenny Bulley ’14 and I drove to St. Louis for the Campus Kitchens Project Conference jointly hosted by CKSLU and CKWashU. We just so happened to overlap with the World Series.
In November AmeriCorps *VISTA member Stephanie Furlong joined our ranks just in time for Turkeypalooza. There’s nothing quite like jumping right in by serving 468 pounds of turkey!
December is slower at the Campus Kitchen as we prepare for our holiday break. Of course, a highlight every holiday is the Magnolia Center’s Christmas play. Mark your calendars for this coming year, it is always a hit!
In January our Backpack Program expanded once more to include Mountainview Elementary School. This was made possible by grant support from the Gadsden Fund. January also brought Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital on board as a food donor.
In February we explored the color spectrum of fruits and veggies at Rockbridge Area Occupational Center, the Magnolia Center, and the Lexington Office on Youth. Do you eat the rainbow?
In April we served our 100,000th meal in the Rockbridge area. We are so grateful for the opportunity to serve our partner agencies and spend time with our clients. We look forward to continuing to serve in years to come!
And finally, our year has concluded with the construction of our new (and permanent) home in the Global Service House.
And so, as we look into 2012-2013, we foresee:
- A move into the new Campus Kitchen in August 2012, with a dedication later in the fall.
- A partnership with the Buena Vista elementary schools through the Weekend Backpack Program beginning in September 2012.
- Increased student voice on our blog.
- Another conference road trip, this time to CKLEE in Tennessee.
- Continued expansion of our services as we grow into our new space.
Think back on your year with the Campus Kitchen. What sticks out to you? Share your favorite CK memories in the comments!