Fri 19 May 2006
Project SHARE has a very valuable mission that people can easily identify with. They are a food pantry that wants to feed the hungry within Carlisle. Not only do the recipients of this aid get balanced nutritional meals, but they themselves participate in different jobs throughout the month, so that they are not just receiving charity, but they are then aiding their neighbors as well as themselves. This is a cause that just about anybody can relate to and is a strength for their non-profit organization. Local churches feel an obligation to aid SHARE, and in this way, they receive much of their monthly tangible donations. The program is ran by individuals who greatly believe in their mission, and who inspire those around them to join in the campaign. They are inventive, and personable, so they do manage to reach out to a rather large number of people in Carlisle, and they do appear to be affecting lives for the better, though the paper evidence is hard to come by.
I think that this was a valuable experience, even though I feel like we did not really accomplish much. I went into this service-learning thinking that I was going to complete a big worthwhile project. Instead, we only managed to create an Excel program. But it taught me how difficult it can be to be a manager. There are so many obstacles that get in the way of the actual act of helping people. I think that I brought some fresh ideas to SHARE, as well as a desire to make their work easier and more efficient. Ideas about accountability and evaluation were planted in my mind from class, and discussing these ideas with Elaine and Pam hopefully helped them realize where change was necessary. I feel that while I brought ambition and a drive for change to SHARE, I was also enthused by the women that I worked with. I saw their interactions with the people that they help every week, and I can now understand how they continue to work there, putting all of themselves into a project that can feel so frustrating. There are no guarantees in this sector. Though I had not been very interested in a management position before, I do feel that it is something that I could be interested in in the future.
Putting in the service learning hours at Project SHARE really brought the readings and lectures from class to life for me. I read about the problems that these organizations face, and how difficult it is to stay true to your mission and maintain integrity while seeking financial security. I learned the importance of having systems of checks and balances within a board and the CEO of a nonprofit, as well as being accountable to the community and other constituents. Working with Elaine and Pam taught me just how difficult it is for a nonprofit to get the kind of money that they need to successfully run their program. Grants are often elusive; you may be rewarded the grant one or more times, and then out of the blue, you’ll be rejected. The guest speakers often spoke about the very issues that I witnessed during my hours. This was such a good way to bring the abstract into reality.