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Lindsey’s Story

By Lindsey Kobes

Yesterday was such a powerful, intense, eye-opening, once-in-a-lifetime day of my life. Words can’t even describe what I have seen, heard, and felt with the numbing ache in my heart.

We woke up at 6 a.m. to work at the Father McKenna all day. All of us yesterday definitely got more than we gave!

I met two gentlemen in particular and talked with them for 3 hours, listening to stories I have only heard in movies. Gary, the drug and abuse counselor, gave the most intense lecture I have ever heard in my life before the lunch hour for the homeless men. He tells them everyday for the men to try to get them to the first step in the 12 steps to recovery.

But, regardless if you are an addict or not, it is a lecture anyone could listen to everyday as as constant reminder to live your life to the fullest.

It sure made a tremendous impact on me… with everything a single experience this week.

A week ago I was sitting in the airport not knowing what was ahead of me, and I definitely did not expect to come back to Oshkosh a changed person with a changed heart.

— Lindsey Kobes

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Thursday the group went to the Newseum, a large museum dedicated to the news and important events in history. The 6-story tall museum had plenty of very impressive exhibits.

After taking a bunch of pictures, we went inside the U.S. Capitol Building, and even had a chance to observe the Senate vote in the chamber. We saw plenty of well-known lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain!

Too bad we couldn’t take pictures inside the Senate chamber. It’s a neat place.

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By Adam Dziewiontkoski

Confronting a homeless person for the first time takes courage and an open mind.

We’re taught from youth it’s socially taboo. But sometimes, we just have to step out of our comfort zone to do it right.

After our experiences Wednesday night, it is with a solemn sense of humility that we can report each of us has, in just one night, learned a great deal about these people and ourselves that we have never known before.

Here at the Fr. McKenna Center last night were stories of true hardships.

These are the stories that are real.

They are sad. They are true. And they are heartbreaking.

In America, there is a void between the homeless and the better-off. We’re often told these people — the panhandlers, the people sleeping on the street — should be avoided in passing. They are low-lifes, we’re told, the plight of our existence.

But given a chance, most of the 270 people we met at the Peace Meal, the kings of Washington’s surface streets, were genuinely caring, kind, sincere and even humorous.

They were like everyday folks, many of them more polite and compassionate than a passerby stranger we come across any other day.

For our group leader, Kati, it was about hearing a man’s story who dropped out of school to help his parents pay the bills. That ultimately led to him living on the streets, he told her, but one day, he’d go back to college and learn to become a dancer — his dream.

For Akina, it was about shedding an old stereotype. As an exchange student, no one would care about her home or family back in Japan, she thought. But surprisingly, the people she met quizzed her a great deal. “They were really interested in what I had to say,” she told us later.

For Agaila, originally from Algeria, it was about realizing her fortunes in surviving from a country steeped in endless war. These homeless people she met, however unclean or unshaven, were really no different from her own. As someone who wants to give back to the community, Agaila said she had found her true calling.

For Monica, it was about realizing that like any good person, these people cared about what she had to say. They asked and asked about life in her home country of South Korea. “They had more interest in my home country of Korea than they do on campus,” she said. In a humbling moment, they held hands in prayer.

And so, for many of us, we discovered that serving these people was not just about the volunteer experience. It was, for a series of fleeting but defining moments, about letting our guard down and extending a welcome and receiving warm kindness in return — something that, maybe, we did not expect.

And at times, it was about seeing another side of the world in all its brutal, unadulterated hardship. Many of these folks have had it rough.

Maybe these people aren’t so ordinary after all. Day after day, they keep going, week after week. They persevere. They find the will to survive.

“I tell ya, these are some real folks,” one man I met said last night. “These are the Lord’s children!” he exclaimed, gesturing with open arms.

These are some extra ordinary people.

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By Bob Mueller, ASB Group Member

Tonight I had the oppurtunity to take part in serving the peace meal here at the McKenna center.

The experience began with a group prayer and a hand to hand bond that was shared with staff and homeless alike. My task for the meal was simple: serve juice to the dinners and welcome them with a smile and a simple greeting.

Any nervousness and anxiety of what was to come were soon erased with the first face that come through the door with a plate of food and a hunger for socializing.

Filling a glass of juice soon developed into meaningful conversation and we were obliged heartfelt thanks and graditude from the men, and for the aid that we were giving them.

Countless stories of life, love and happiness were shared to me by these men and a friendly bond was formed with many, while the emotional weight of concern and our sympathy grew with others.

Mid-way through the Peace Meal I was able to get away from the serving and began to speak with the men that were in the waiting area. Individuals that were lined up in the church pews with call numbers had to wait to receive a warm meal before returing to the streets, their home.

I met a man that spent 11 years of his young adulthood behind bars and was released in his mid twenties with only the clothing on his back. He was a proud man.

He did not want to be at the peace meal Wednesday evening, but he understood that he really needed the food.

This was one place that he knew he could get some quality “southern cooking.”

All theses faces and stories within only a few hours was a lot to handle, and over time, it become overbearing because I was so sad and concerned for each one of my new friends’ health and well being.

It was this point in the night that I met a man that I would soon consider to be a messanger sent to me straight from God.

Jared was a gentle, yet powerful man that with passionate and elegance that was comparable to that of a clergymen.

Once, he was a talented musician that spent most of the evening playing the church piano and entertaining the mass of hungry souls. He was known and beloved by all. He held no hesitation when sharing his thoughts and knowledge. He started by expressing great thanks to us as students for taking time from our spring breaks to make an effort to bring help to a people that are often invisible to everyone else on the streets.

He told me that I could give any one of these homeless men $100,000 today, and without the knowledge of how to use the resource properly it would be only time again the individual would be back at the center, looking for help.

You could not put a price on the help we offered. It was our generous help that would stay with the men for the rest of their lives. The men look forward to groups like ours because it offers them an oppurtunity to tell their stories and to find strength from the students that are there to help.

The entire time that I was engaged in conversation with Jared, I could not help to think about my late Grandpa and the words that he shared with me shortly before his passing.

The last conversation that I has with him, he told me with great conviction, “You will do great things in life.” Never did these words mean more to me than they did Wednesday during my conversation with Jared.

My emotional slump was replaced with an overwhelming high, because it became clear to me the large positive impact that we were having in just one night.

I will never forget Jared.

And I am thankfull that he was here to personally deliver a message that I truly needed.

The array of emotions was a true life experience that I am blessed for having.

We have a special group of friends here to fall back on for support, and I am proud to say that I am a part of the 2010 ASB and that as a UW Oshkosh, Clintonville High School, and St. Martin Lutheran school alumnus I am doing great things for a great cause.

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This morning we had a wonderful experience enjoying a delicious continental breakfast with our Wisconsin senator, Herb Kohl.

Kohl answered our questions relating to education, jobs after college and the health care bill just passed. After a million dollar picture with him and extending our gratitude we were on our way.

In the afternoon, we visited the National Archives and ate lunch at a park with great sunny skies and cherry blossoms all around us!

Visiting the Natural History Museum and the FBI building was awesome…so many great sites to see here in D.C.! Later we served the Peace Meal at Father McKenna where we fed an estimated 270 people.

As I sit here in the pew the many voices of the people fill the church and that only puts a smile on my face! 🙂

— Lindsey Kobes

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15,000 Pounds

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On Tuesday the UW-Oshkosh Alternative Spring Break group helped organize and ship 15,000 pounds of food at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C.

To put that in perspective, that’s three U.S. military Humvee’s worth of food.

We’ll be guests of Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) for breakfast at his office Wednesday morning.

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Git-r-done at S.O.M.E.

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We cheeseheads all just got done working at the organization ‘So Others May Eat,’ also known as S.O.M.E.

We split up in various groups to serve food, organize the food pantry, and clean the warehouse. It was an experience filled with strenuous ice picking, many laughs and wonderful people. Even better, this great time was topped off by a dance from our very own Monica!

The stories, the people, and the hard work and generosity are clearly what keeps this heart-warming organization able to serve food to the 800 people that come and go through its doors each day!

— Lindsey Kobes

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