This Christmas Season, we invite you to “Extend the Table”. This is the theme our volunteers are exploring this year–to honor a spirit of radical hospitality in their service with those on the margins. As we share some of the ways they’re extending the table, we hope you’ll be inspired, too. We invite you to join in our efforts to extend the table to current and future generations of volunteers. Below, current JV Laura shares her service with the Cascade Youth and Family Center.
What service do you provide as a JV?
I work with the Street Outreach Program through Cascade Youth & Family Center, a program of JBarJ. I am the Community Health Outreach Specialist, focusing on street outreach with youth experiencing homelessness. One of my main goals for this year is to form a bridge between the gap in medical services and the young people I am accompanying. This includes increasing number of people served during drop-in hours, particularly on the mobile Mosaic Medical van and with the traveling Kemple dental clinic. Increasing the number of conversations about health and healthcare and introducing the youth to the resources available to them will help improve their medical literacy, contribute to more healthy lifestyles, and help build our program at Cascade Youth & Family Center, so that we can reach more individuals.
What has had an impact on you while serving alongside youth?
Because the Street Outreach Program is based out of the LOFT, a transitional living program/shelter for youth, I am able to spend time with the residents of the LOFT when not doing street outreach. This has afforded me the opportunity to meet some of the most incredible young people I’ve ever encountered. The residents have taught me important life lessons about resiliency, hard work, and the power of laughter.
One young man who stands out to me in particular is a person who has recently made huge strides in creating a new life. He recently graduated from the transitional living program, and moved into an apartment with one of his fellow residents. He has taken initiative and asked his manager at work for more hours and responsibiilty. He has also taken big steps in accomplishing his goals of earning his GED. I filled in as his tutor for his final two exams. With only a few days until his science exam, we started preparing immediately, studying for several hours at a time. Through hard work and dedication, this young man was able to pass his science GED, and is one step closer to accomplishing his goals. I am truly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work with such remarkable young people, accompanying them on their journeys through life and in our shared fight against injustice.
Given that the Bend JVs are all specifically addressing health-related service, how has this impacted your health outreach efforts?
My health-related JV community is impacting my health outreach efforts in keeping me ever cognizant of one of the unifying goals of this year: improving knowledge around and accessibility to healthcare services in the community. Our JV community has gathered together many times to discuss the potential impact we can have on the Bend community this year, and we always arrive at the same conclusion. Through direct contact, compassionate care, and fulfillment of basic needs, we can work towards a healthier community, simply by being there for people and opening up doors they didn’t even realize were closed. This continued focus on healthcare and support from my JV community has kept me motivated to continue seeking out new opportunities to connect the youth with medical services and make Bend an overall healthier community.
What does “Extending the Table” mean to you and how are you exploring it through your service?
Extending the table is about immersing yourself in a community, entering with an open and loving heart, and working to ensure that all those around you feel included and welcomed to join in. This year is not a year of service for me. It is a year of accompaniment and growth. I have extended the table to the young people I work with, as we learn from one another and share the same desire for the world to be a more hospitable, caring place. My JV community and I have extended the table to one another, as we share space, meals, and friendship, learning what it means to be a part of an intentional community. Our Bend support community has extended the table to us, sharing bits of wisdom and welcoming us into a new home. Our table is extensive and there is room for everyone. At our JV table, everyone is welcome.