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Salinas Middle School Service Trip • 2023

Day 1 – Travel Day

We met at the Church at 3:15 pm today and loaded the vans with our luggage and then circled up to be introduced to the advisors on the trip, listen to instructions from Keris (our Youth Director) and also what to expect on the trip. Pastor Jaime Polson then prayed for us and we took a group picture with the participants, advisors and some parents too!

The car rides were fun and we stopped in San Jose for dinner, in a place that had several options to choose from. We left there at 6 pm and reached The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church where we’re staying this week. We unloaded the vans and went to the separate rooms for boys and girls and had some free time.

We later gathered in the sanctuary where Keris briefed us more about the community where we will live and serve this week. We saw a documentary called “East of Salinas” which was an eye-opener for the community and the lives of the people we will likely interact with. We then broke into small groups to discuss the video, enjoyed some free time and went to bed to get ready for our first work day!

Day 2 – Our First Day of Service

Today we started the day by having a great breakfast together at the Lutheran Church and then Team 1 headed out to Dorothy’s Kitchen to serve breakfast there. Dorothy’s Kitchen serves daily meals to people experiencing homelessness in Salinas and is a powerful advocate for powerful change and a compassionate spirit within the community. The team helped serve breakfast, and prepare for lunch by making salads, chopping vegetables, making PBJ sandwiches, etc.

Teams 2 & 3 went to the 1st Methodist Church and performed tasks such as organizing their clothing closet, cleaning the art therapy room and the general facilities. This Church provides a great deal of support to people experiencing homelessness and addiction. Both Dorothy’s Kitchen and the church have partnered with LOPC on every trip to Salinas thus far.

In the afternoon we all went to Sherwood Elementary School and worked with a summer enrichment program for children of migrant farm workers. We spent time in two different classrooms, but before that, we heard from Oscar Ramos, the teacher that was highlighted in the documentary we watched on Monday night! About Oscar Ramos – his parents worked in the fields and he did as a child too. He now advocates for migrant farmers and is currently transitioning from being a teacher for over 25 years to managing the migrant services enrichment programs for the district. He is a powerful Christian and community organizer in this community.

After that, we came back to the Lutheran Church for free time, dinner, a devotional by Keris, small group time, showers and more free time before bed. What a great day! Tomorrow ,we go out into the fields!

Day 3 – Working in the Fields

We started our day by enjoying breakfast together and then heading to the Agricultural and Land Based Training Association, also known as ALBA.

We were greeted by Salvador Avalos on staff there who gave a presentation on what ALBA does and how it impacts the community. ALBA trains and advocates for farmers on how to become certified as organic farmers and to own their own business as such. We took a tour of the large property and even helped farmers in their plots by weeding around their crops. We saw big differences between conventional farms which use pesticides, and organic farms which looked a lot less clean because of the weeds (no pesticides to kill weeds). We enjoyed lunch and ate some delicious strawberries given to us by some of the farmers we worked with.

After being at ALBA we made a quick stop at Starbucks and then came back to the church and washed the windows for the staff. We did it as a thank you for allowing us to stay in this beautiful building free of charge, as washing the windows is a task that they are not always able to do each week.

After having a wonderful spaghetti and salad dinner, we heard from LaVerne McLeod, author of the book The Crossroads of Social and Climate Justice, and the co-chair of Sustainable Big Sur. She talked about climate justice and the intersections of environmental rasicm and the health impacts it carries, mostly for communities of color. We debriefed together as a group after her very powerful presentation, and then enjoyed free time together before heading to bed. We can’t wait for what is next!

Day 4 – Service Projects & Beach Fun!

Two of the teams went to Dorothy’s Kitchen early today and were welcomed at the front door by Julietta, an amazingly organized and caring lady who runs a tight ship!!

She showed us around and then separated us into groups. Half of us worked with Dustin preparing breakfast plates of scrambled eggs and pastries, hot coffee and fruit to over one hundred guests. The rest of us assembled in a line with at least thirty loaves of bread and enough lunch meat to prepare sandwiches for the lunch hour that was just around the corner. Several of awesome team members were hands on and vital in the speedy breakfast clean-up and later sanitizing the whole kitchen!!

Our final job was to crack close to four hundred eggs for the next morning’s meal! We all witnessed the basic need these people have on a daily basis for a hot meal. The kitchen helps so many, and we are so grateful that we could help today.

The other team went to the Food Bank Monterey County where we bagged over 8,000 apples. The food bank gets donations and also purchases food from large wholesalers like Costco and Target. They also have a large field in their backyard to grow their own vegetables and fruits. The food bank then serves the homeless in the community and also donates (and sells at a hugely subsidized rate) to local organizations who serve the people who need help.

After our service in the morning at the Food Bank and Dorothy’s Kitchen, we went straight to Sherwood Elementary School for our 2nd day of assisting in the classrooms with the children there. Team 1 went with the older children and Teams 2 & 3 spent their time in the classroom with the younger ones. We stayed there until 3pm and had the best time.

After being at the school, we went back to the Lutheran Church for some downtime. Then, just before 5pm, we headed out to Carmel-By-The-Sea for a time of takeout pizza and salad, fellowship, and of course jumping in the waves. It was a great way to relax after a big week of service all throughout Salinas. Please continue to pray for our youth and all our service partners! On to our final day!

Day 5 – Final Day!

Our last day of service started with instructions and a prayer in the parking lot of the Church where we stayed. We then went to a community garden which was part of “Sustainable Salinas”, a program that raises community consciousness and promotes projects designed to make communities more sustainable. Leticia H, the volunteer director gave us a tour of the garden and explained everything planted there and was generous to us by encouraging us to taste the edible leaves and flowers in the garden.

Our group did some painting projects and helped around the garden with tasks they needed help with. Laurie E, the Vice President, later joined us and explained more ending the climate crisis in one generation. She also brought some wonderful kale chips and cookies.

We went back to the Migrant center from the garden, and interacted with the kids there.
 Mr. Ramos, who was in the documentary “East of Salinas” that we watched on the first day, surprised us by introducing his student Jose A, who was a little kid in the documentary, but is now going to college in Berkeley, not too far from us! It was fun getting to know what he’s been doing since the documentary was filmed.

After that, we went back to the church we stayed at, cleaned the rooms we slept in, the bathrooms we used and some common areas, loaded the vans and headed back to LOPC. Once we reached there, we had a short session of debriefing where we shared our thoughts and the trip ended with a prayer by Pastor Jaime Polson. Thank you for all your prayers and support for our youth and all our service partners!