Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Drop-off Day

DAY 11 of "A Journey with the Brethren"

Drop-off Day is a BVS tradition that goes back to at least the 70s and has changed very little. It's a day that we as volunteers begin to learn some things about giving and about each other.

The essence of Drop-off Day is in volunteers going out into the communities around New Windsor and asking residents for work, odd jobs, inside or outside chores... anything they need done. The work is strictly accomplished at no charge and no donations can be accepted, no proselytizing and the project can be as hard or as long as the resident requests.

Ok, this might sound strange at first glance, so to put this particular training session into perspective let me say just a little about BVS.

Brethren Volunteer Service is not a church or a religion, but rather a service arm and ministry of the Church of the Brethren. It all started 60 years ago when some idealistic young people of the Church of the Brethren, on their own, began freely helping people in need. They were also somewhat rebels in their own right, because soon this group was allowing anyone, regardless of faith or not, to join them in their endevor. Then, at the request of these spiritual rebels, the church, in an historic move and after being so impressed by the youths, decided to officially sponsor them.

These same young people would go out into surrounding communities in a bus for weeks at a time and volunteer there time wherever the need arose. They supported themselves by using their own savings or working odd jobs from time to time along the way. Eventually Drop-off Day evolved into one of the many training sessions here at Orientation, as an exercise in helping your neighbors and teaching BVSers creative ways to do service.

Our day stated by boarding two of BVS's mini-buses, #1 and #2, their sides artistically decorated with the "big purple BVS peace bird" logo. After being divided into groups of four, we were driven through New Windsor and then one bus headed North and the bus I rode headed South, 7 more miles on Highway 407 to Ridge Rd. and Baker Rd. Suddenly our driver Genelle, also our Orientation Coordinator along with Becky who was driving the other bus (both lovely young ladies with terrific personalities), pulled over into a gravel driveway and opened the bus door. My group was told to get out; our only instructions: start knocking on doors, help whomever we could and find a ride back to New Windsor by 4:00p.

The four of us, Amy, Paula, Will and myself, began doing just that—knocking on doors. We found no one home at the first five stops, except a dog or two.

Then we got our first job; a happy farmer let us pick tomatoes with him for ten minutes. Next came a friendly mother with a new born who was willing to give us the opportunity to weed her front and side yards and mow the back. Trouble struck right away, though, when one of my friends broke the lawn mower... YeeOowZeers! But we were quickly forgiven and we all went back to the weeding.

After getting much praise for our efforts, it was lunch time (brown bag) on the same ladies lawn. The rest of the day was spent knocking on a lot more doors, having a great time joking and laughing—building on our friendship—and ended three miles later with weeding a very nice couple of biker ladies' overgrown vegetable garden. One of them gave us a ride back home.

We are heading to Baltimore tomorrow for four days, where we'll be doing volunteer work at five new projects and living in the auditorium of a converted Catholic Girls School that's now a "homeless shelter" for men.

Check back for more "A Journey with the Brethren."