The 2016 Shari Prestemon Social Justice Interns have graciously agreed to share their experiences with all of us. From time to time, we’ll be posting ‘journal entries’ from Sharell Shippen and Sheryl Garcia. Below is one of these entries.
Since this is my last journal, I wanted to take the time to thank everyone here at Back Bay Mission (BBM) for allowing me to enter their world and showing me the ropes. I truly appreciate everything y’all do.
I have spent some time this summer answering phones, filing papers, and entering data into QuickBooks, something that many people would consider ‘busy work’ and a waste of a summer. I will not lie and say that I did not at one point think the same myself, but as the time passed and I saw how Back Bay Mission functions as a whole, I began to see the importance all these ‘little’ jobs have. I got to alleviate the stress and amount of work staff members had to do and in turn I got to witness them work their magic and move Back Bay Mission along in accomplishing different goals. Just recently I have gotten to experience what it means to be the administrative assistant here at Back Bay Mission and let me just say: it is not a task to be taken lightly. The assistant is usually the first person you talk to when you call BBM and the first person you see when you walk through the front door. S/he handles day-to-day tasks from answering phones and filing documents to handling postage and keeping everyone informed about what is going on at BBM. The current assistant is someone who has taught me that it is important to not let people walk all over you because they think you are just the assistant. Her job is so much more than being just the assistant and how you see yourself will reflect how others see you.
My time working with the accountant has been very eye opening as well. Back home in Dallas I do similar work (on a much smaller scale) so I offered my skills thinking I would be inputting data and going about my day. Instead, I have learned the ins and outs of what makes BBM function (behind the scenes). I have learned that the donations and mission groups from the UCC and other organizations and individuals are a true blessing to BBM. I have even gotten to enhance my QuickBooks skills and found that a lot of the vendors BBM uses my job in Dallas also uses! That might just be because these vendors are very popular…but still…
This summer I also got to spend a lot of time with the community relations person. I got to attend various meetings and networking events and have seen what it means to make connections in the community and how that affects Back Bay Mission.
One of the biggest projects I have gotten to participate in was the changing of the mission statement. It was amazing to not only witness a group of people exchanging ideas and coming up with statements that best summarize Back Bay Mission, but to have my opinion also taken into consideration and being a part of the change. I never knew what really went into the marketing and advertising side of a business or non-profit but I now understand how important and beneficial it is to network and to have your organization be seen in a positive and well-known way.
All of the behind the scenes jobs may not be very hands on and what Back Bay Mission is known for, but it would be a mistake to think that what they do is not important and vital to BBM. I admire the work they do and I know BBM would not be around if it were not for them. So thank you!
Two programs I have spent the most time with this summer are the Emergency Assistance and Food Pantry programs. I was especially interested in the food pantry because my university has a food pantry that I hope to contribute to and work in. Like with many things, my first few days of running the pantry were hectic. It seemed like there was so much information that needed to be entered and we only had a short time to serve all the people who came in and HOW COULD WE POSSIBLY GET IT DONE?!?!?
Then the caseworker looked at me and said, “we are not fast food, they will all be served so there is no need to rush.” Once I had that drilled into my head it felt like the easiest job to do, depending on the day. I did not expect how rewarding it feels to have someone thank you for walking them through a pantry and letting them choose what food they want. A lot of the people I assisted felt comfortable enough to hold conversations with me and wouldn’t ya know… they are people too! (sarcasm) It is a great feeling to know that for the few minutes you were in the pantry with them you are making a difference, maybe not to the world, maybe not to the whole community, but to that particular person.
One of the most physically demanding programs is the housing rehab program. I only got to spend a certain amount of days working with them, but in those few days I gained such an appreciation for what it means to work not only on houses, but in the community. The work that the housing rehab program does impacts the community and those around them tremendously. They are not just fixing houses, they are creating room for growth and the possibility for those living in the houses to live a more comfortable life without the stress and worry of holding the pieces of their house together. The summer days were not kind to me or the other volunteers, yet we still managed to get in a full day’s work everyday. It still amazes me to think about how excited each volunteer group was to go out every day and work on different projects knowing that what they’re doing directly affects someone living on the coast. I now understand why the housing rehab program is such a huge part of Back Bay Mission and I look forward to returning with my church as a mission group and spending a week working with them again.
Back Bay Mission does so much more than I knew walking through Dr. Graham’s door on my first day. They are not just an organization that assists those experiencing homelessness. They are not just a place where people can go to get food on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. They are not just a place where those who need rental assistance or have housing repairs that need to be done can go. Back Bay Mission is a place where when you walk through the front door you are greeted and offered the best help possible. A place that has a mission to give a hand up (not a hand out) to those who truly need it. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to spend my summer interning at Back Bay Mission and I look forward to what the future holds and seeing how the knowledge I have gained will play a role in my life.
See a Collection of Sheryl’s Photos on Facebook