Adventures in Rockbridge County

As you may or may not know, Rockbridge County is magical. That’s right, magical. You might be wondering how I can make such an “outlandish” statement. Well, it all started because of a project I am working on as an intern at Campus Kitchen this summer. I am working in cooperation with RARA (Rockbridge Area Relief Association) to map out needy areas of the community and determine accessibility of healthy foods. This project will help identify areas of the county that require more attention from our local pantries.

It started by identifying the areas on a map. That was followed by adding to the map a list of fast food, grocery, and convenience stores. I then developed a survey, which I took to fifteen of the stores in Lexington, Glasgow, Goshen, Natural Bridge, Raphine, and Vesuvius (pretty much anywhere that had people breathing in the vicinity). The survey simply required me to write down what fresh vegetables and fruits, low-fat grains, meats, and dairy products that the store carried along with their prices. I also included a few questions like whether or not the store accepts EBT or has any locally grown food. It was in taking this journey that I found that Rockbridge County is hiding many secrets from you. I have heard students at Washington and Lee complain more than one time about what little Rockbridge County has to offer. I would say it is probably because they were not looking hard enough.

First of all, I stumbled upon a magical little waterfall called Cedar Falls while driving through Vesuvius. Vesuvius is actually a hidden town so you may not know a lot about it. I drove through windy streets, up mountains, and finally into a little valley surrounded by hills. The houses were few but not too far between and I can only assume people in them must lead the ultimate quiet nature loving lives to live among that beautiful lush greenery. I think it is where the Keebler elves have their tree, in fact. I am almost certain. But anyways, back to Cedar Falls. There was a little sign sticking out on the road that alerted me to its presence so of course I had to investigate. As I was walking up to it, I realized I was most likely on private property and it almost seemed like a backyard. Regardless, I continued on to find a little waterfall about fourteen feet tall that led into a swimming hole and a stream that trickled down over rocks to form a beautiful little picture.

That first adventure became one of many. From visiting Layne’s Grocery in Natural Bridge and buying their magically delicious homemade jam to sitting under a large dinosaur eating a locally grown peach in Glasgow (what other options are there when your car is broken down?), I can say with complete confidence Rockbridge county is certainly a magical place. My story doesn’t simply end there because I have left out an important part of what makes it such a wonderful place: the people.

My experiences culminated in having the pleasure of being able to observe the wonderful work that RARA does and interact with the people living in many of the places I had visited. I was able to observe the intake process at this food pantry and the method through which it serves the clients. I was fortunate to meet those clients and see some of the specifics of their incomes and benefits. Many of them are in drastic need. It motivated me to continue with my project, knowing I could help these people who often came to the pantry as a last resort. These are not the type of people that some groups would have you believe. They are not lazy, opportunistic, or unworthy of the same opportunities that wealthier people enjoy. I know because I have seen them, but the sad thing is that poverty has silenced many of them. You won’t hear their stories because society says they should be ashamed to tell them and you won’t see their faces unless you are an active member of the community. Be the voice for those who have been silenced living just a stone’s throw away from your neighborhood. Most importantly, get involved and learn about just how magical Rockbridge County can be.

Goals and Reflections of a Summer Intern

It’s hard to believe that my time as an intern at Campus Kitchens is almost over, I’m headed home for a visit in less than two weeks, and when I return there will only be a couple weeks left of my internship. I went into this summer with one main goal, and that was to really get to know the clients that Campus Kitchens serves. I won’t pretend that I know everyone’s name or everything about them, but I definitely think that I have learned a lot from our clients, and have begun to build what I believe will be strong and long lasting relationships with many of them, in particular I have grown close to many of the kids at the Summer Fun program, and the residents at the Manor.

I expected to love working with the kids at Summer Fun, as the majority of my service as a Bonner Scholar has been with kids in Lexington area schools, (in fact I know several of the kids in the program from previous volunteer experiences). What I did not expect, was how much I have come to love going to the Manor. The first time I went to the Manor, it was because the kid’s programs hadn’t started up yet, so I was just going with on all of the adult shifts. By the end of my first visit, I found that I really enjoyed meeting with the residents and hearing of their life experiences. I have spoken to people at the Manor who hail from all over the country and have had a vast array of different circumstances shape their lives. The time I have spent on the Manor has refreshed the importance of providing both companionship and nutritious meals in order to satisfy the needs of our clients. It has also taught me how much there is to learn from other people and their stories, more than anything else I think it has helped me understand in a deeper sense the importance of the work Campus Kitchens, and other relief agencies like it do for the communities they work in.

This summer I have gained a better understanding of the work Campus Kitchens does, as I have had the opportunity both to witness behind the scenes fundraising and administrative work, and up-front client interaction on a much larger scale. As my internship winds down, and I look toward the next school year, I hope to continue to volunteer at the Manor and at the school year’s version of Summer Fun aka Lexington Office on Youth; so that I can further develop the bonds I have formed with our clients, and continue to learn more from and about them.

Year in Review

Here at Washington and Lee University the fiscal year ends June 30.  In going with that schedule, that means it is time for us at CKWL to reflect on another year gone by.  This year has seen some incredible milestones, and the future continue to looks bright.   So let’s reflect on 2011-2012 and look to the future.


Last year started out great.  We’d just received news that CKWL was receiving a $25,000 grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation to support our Weekend Backpack Snack Program and the purchase of a vehicle to call our own.  Tomas and Sarah shared in the excitement when we purchased a new to us 2009 Volkeswagon Routan.

In September our Weekend Backpack Snack Program was able to expand to include both Central Elementary and Waddell Elementary School.  Manly Memorial Baptist Church adopted Central Elementary School to pack and deliver backpacks weekly.  The youth group from Lexington Baptist Church packed all the rest!

In October our CKWL contingent hit the road.  Alvin Thomas ’14, Jenny Bulley ’14 and I drove to St. Louis for the Campus Kitchens Project Conference jointly hosted by CKSLU and CKWashU.  We just so happened to overlap with the World Series.

In November AmeriCorps *VISTA member Stephanie Furlong joined our ranks just in time for Turkeypalooza.  There’s nothing quite like jumping right in by serving 468 pounds of turkey!

December is slower at the Campus Kitchen as we prepare for our holiday break.  Of course, a highlight every holiday is the Magnolia Center’s Christmas play.  Mark your calendars for this coming year, it is always a hit!

In January our Backpack Program expanded once more to include Mountainview Elementary School.  This was made possible by grant support from the Gadsden Fund.  January also brought Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital on board as a food donor.

In February we explored the color spectrum of fruits and veggies at Rockbridge Area Occupational Center, the Magnolia Center, and the Lexington Office on Youth.  Do you eat the rainbow?

In April we served our 100,000th meal in the Rockbridge area.  We are so grateful for the opportunity to serve our partner agencies and spend time with our clients.  We look forward to continuing to serve in years to come!

And finally, our year has concluded with the construction of our new (and permanent) home in the Global Service House.

Looking Forward

And so, as we look into 2012-2013, we foresee:

  • A move into the new Campus Kitchen in August 2012, with a dedication later in the fall.
  • A partnership with the Buena Vista elementary schools through the Weekend Backpack Program beginning in September 2012.
  • Increased student voice on our blog.
  • Another conference road trip, this time to CKLEE in Tennessee.
  • Continued expansion of our services as we grow into our new space.

Think back on your year with the Campus Kitchen.  What sticks out to you?  Share your favorite CK memories in the comments!

June 2012 Statistics and Volunteer Spotlight

In June CKWL…

-served 1,766 meals

-passed along  3,534 lbs of food to local food pantries

-enlisted  217 volunteer hours from 60 volunteers

-recovered  6,263 lbs of food that would otherwise have gone to waste

Thank you to our dedicated volunteers!  Each month we will feature the volunteers who cross a new threshold in service here with our statistics!  The new year began July 1st, 2011 so hours are counted from that date.

Completing over 20 hours through June 30th:

  • Will McCurdy

Completing over 100 hours through June 30th:

  • Angelica Tillander
  • Emily Warner

When the power goes out…

Rockbridge County is a bit crazy right now with the power outages caused by the derecho storm on Friday night.  We are so very lucky that the Campus Kitchen has power so we have not had to toss any food.  We are also happy to be in a position to help our clients.  Multiple assisted living and group homes we serve on a regular basis are without power.  We are doing our best to meet their needs.

We made a bonus trip to Natural Bridge this morning to find clients grouped together in a room with fans run off of generators.  We brought as many dry foods for them to snack on as we could and will bring a hot dinner tonight.  We’re just glad that those needing oxygen have access to it. 

Dominion is hoping to have 85% of the outages restored by this evening.  We want our clients to be comfortable and hope they are included in that 85% but if not we’ll be back at it tomorrow, and even on the 4th as needed. 

Do you have power?  How are you coping with the heat?

Summer Nutrition Education: Week 1

This week was our first week of summer nutrition education with two of our local partners.  On Monday, Wednesday and Friday we have a lesson in the W&L Campus Garden with participants of the Y Summer camp.  On Tuesday and Thursday, we have a lesson with the participants of Summer Fun, which is a summer  program that’s put on by the Lexington City Office on Youth.  The nutrition education program will run for 8 weeks and will introduce children in kindergarten through fifth grade to different topics that are related to nutrition and gardening.

The first lesson focused on MyPlate, which is the current nutrition guide that is published by the US Department of Agriculture.  It replaces the food pyramid that many of us grew up with, with its prescribed servings of each food group per day.  Instead of focusing on how many servings we should have of each food group per day, it emphasizes the fact that we should be trying to make every meal balanced and healthy, and trying to eat a variety of foods at each meal.

During this lessons, campers colored their own copy of my MyPlate, and talked about all 5 of the food groups on it–fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.  Fruits and vegetables tend to be easy, especially since most everyone has a favorite, but talking about different sources of grains and proteins can be a bit more challenging.  In order to make the lesson more fun and interactive, we put out an array of plastic food that contained everything from asparagus and broccoli to pizza and ice cream, and asked the campers to find items from all the different categories.

From a behind-the-scenes planning perspective, it was really exciting (and a little terrifying!) to watch something that I’ve been working on and planning for months finally become something real and tangible.  I can plan and over-plan all I want, but it was hard to anticipate how things would work in actuality.  I’ve been developing the curriculum for months now, but it’s only in beginning to work with the children and actually teach it, that I can get a real sense of how it works. There were a few small hiccups this week–mostly thanks to nature.  Rain is nice, but not when it sends you scrambling for alternate plans on the first day of nutrition education in the garden!  As a whole, the first week was a success, and I look forward to next week, when we’re talking about one of my favorite vegetables.  This vegetable is one that donkeys love to eat, is rich in fiber and beta-carotene and was once used to make butter a more appealing color.  Can anyone guess what vegetable we’re going to be working with?

Interning @ CKWL

I first volunteered at Campus Kitchens in October of my freshmen year during Bonner Scholar Orientation, we did a cooking shift, and then a delivery to Glasgow. After this first time volunteering at the kitchen, I found that I was really interested in learning more about it and volunteering on a regular basis. I started coming to the Sunday cooking shifts every week, and joined the leadership team that spring after deciding that I wanted to make a more intensive commitment to working at the kitchen.

This year I got a chance to see more of the diverse array of clients that Campus Kitchens works with, and after spending my Feb Break volunteering at the kitchen all day, I decided that I would really like to stay in Lexington this summer and intern at the kitchen.

I am excited to get to know more about the sites and clients that we serve at Campus Kitchens this summer, but first  I will tell you all a little about me.  My name is Angelica, and I am a rising junior at Washington and Lee. As a Bonner Scholar my main service sites are Waddell Elementary, Natural Bridge Elementary, and of course, Campus Kitchens. I am also working to set up a college mentoring program at the high school, and in the coming school year that will become a primary placement for me as well.

This summer I will be working primarily with the youth related shifts, as I am very interested in education and issues related to childhood poverty. We have already begun summer nutrition programs with the YMCA summer camp and the Summer Fun program, and I am excited to report that we have had a lot of fun teaching nutrition to the kids so far! I know a few of the kids already from volunteering at Waddell, as well as from the nutrition/cooking class that we taught as an after-school program for kids during winter term. I am excited to get to know the ones I don’t already know throughout the summer.

In addition to working with the youth programs, I will also be working on the Manor delivery shifts. Last week, I was fortunate enough to go to the Manor for the first time, since the youth programs had not yet begun, and I found that I really connected with and enjoyed meeting the residents there. So, after talking to Jenny, we have added that to my schedule for this summer, and I will be heading to the Manor every Monday and Wednesday.

I am also excited to learn more about the administrative sides of Campus Kitchens this summer, so far I have begun to put together meal plans and enter our food donation and HAACP information into the computer. I am interested in learning a little about grant writing, as well, this summer.

Anyway, that is all I have to report so far, but keep reading the Campus Kitchens blog for more updates this summer.

An Effective Volunteer

Last weekend I had the privilege of presenting to the 2012 Shepherd Alliance Interns about how they can be an effective full-time volunteer this summer within their placements.  Kimberly Phillips from Career Services gave an excellent introduction to making a good first impression and technicalities of how interns can develop desirable work skills on the job.  I was able to expand on Kimberly’s points speaking from personal experience, both as a Shepherd Alliance Intern in 2006 and as a supervisor to Alliance interns the past several summers.

This is me, Summer 2006, getting to know DC with my fellow interns.

In case you missed it and would like some hints on making the most of an intensive summer of service, here are the highlights from our presentation:

  • Non-profits are notoriously under-staffed.  As a summer intern/volunteer you want to make a good first impression by adopting the right work attitudes so that your presence eases the load of your co-workers.  Kimberly highlighted humility, a willingness to learn, respect (for staff and clients alike), confidence, open-mindedness, a good work ethic and a positive attitude.
  • Dress codes at non-profits are often casual.  Be sure to overdress at the start and follow the example of others.   Remember that the campus and real world definitions of appropriate dress are worlds apart:  watch the length of your shorts/skirts and keep your t-shirts clean, literally and figuratively.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.  It is absolutely essential that when you are given a task you follow up with your supervisor, even if it is just to let them know you’re working on it.  Your supervisor will not know your strengths, weaknesses, and skill level when you start work so it is your job to ask questions and offer solutions to problems. Effectively communicating your expectations and abilities with your supervisor can mean the difference between an experience and a great experience!
  • Develop relationships.  My guess is that you’re in this position because you have an interest in the issue that is being addressed.  Spend time getting to know your co-workers who are making a career out of this.  Pick their brains for ideas and know-how.  Talk to clients; learn their stories.  Often these experiences push us beyond our comfort zones, but that is often when we learn the most.
  • Know the boundaries of your position and stay within them.  If you are working in a hunger relief organization and a client is asking for gifts, rides, or anything else that falls outside the bounds of the organization, say no. Ask your supervisor for advice in the situation and research organizations that provide those services.  Your actions on behalf of the non-profit you work with represent that non-profit and set a precedent for the behavior and expectations of clients that may persist long after your summer job.  Your organization has guidelines for a reason- stick to them!

There you have it, the basics for turning a summer service opportunity into a true service-learning experience.

What would you add to the list?  Have you had an intensive summer of service experience?  Share some of your wisdom in the comments!

Summer Intern!

This summer I will be one of the campus kitchens interns! You might being wondering who I am. My name is Emily Warner and I am a rising junior at Washington and Lee. I am a Bonner and Campus Kitchens along with The Blue Ridge Autism Center in Buena Vista are my main service placements. I served as a shift leader over this past year and decided to stay and continue to work in this organization that I love! It definitely beats sitting at a desk all summer, which I began to appreciate at my first full day on the job lifting boxes of cans donated by the W&L library.

I will serve on all of the shifts involving adults because my interest lies in the adult programming Campus Kitchens offers. This means working with mostly mentally disabled clients. I began to really enjoy doing this first semester of my sophomore year when I started going to the Rockbridge Area Occupational Center. At first, I was timid and nervous about working with this population. I did not know how to interact with them and had no experience working with this type of group. I followed the lead of the other volunteers as they grabbed a plate of food and sat down to eat with the people at the center after serving them. I began to ask them questions and have conversations with them about our lives. I soon became very comfortable and immediately began to enjoy seeing their faces every week. I learned to love and appreciate their unique quirks and likes and dislikes. It became a place for me to go and forget about all of the school work or responsibility I had back on campus. It was so easy to do because it felt like a totally different world. I left all of my worries at the door and came to eat lunch with friends every Tuesday and Thursday. Now, I get to do this all summer!

Along with leading the normal shifts, I will also be working on a project with local food pantry. I will be researching what areas surrounding Lexington are not being serviced properly by food pantries. We are doing this in an effort to expand services to those who are not accessing them now because of transportation issues and distance of the people from the nearest food pantry.  I am really excited about this project because it will give me an opportunity to get to know  the area in ways that I never would have if I mostly stayed on campus during my time at W&L, and I will be part of the effort to get help to those areas that need it most!

I will also have the opportunity to learn a little bit of how Campus Kitchens is run from the business side of things by working with Jenny in her office. I am particularly interested in grant writing as I know it is a skill I will need for a career in nonprofit management, which is what I am thinking of doing in the future.

That is about it for now. Stay tuned for more updates on what we are doing this summer!

May 2012 Statistics and Volunteer Spotlight

In May CKWL…

-served 2,232 meals

-passed along  2,570 lbs of food to local food pantries

-enlisted 274 volunteer hours from 45 volunteers

-recovered 6,157 lbs of food that would otherwise have gone to waste

Thank you to our dedicated volunteers!  Each month we will feature the volunteers who cross a new threshold in service here with our statistics!  The new year began July 1st, 2011 so hours are counted from that date.

Completing over 20 hours through May 31st:

  • Addison Spinner
  • Alex Minor
  • Catherine Elder
  • Ellen Wiencek

Completing over 50 hours through May 31st:

  • Caroline Gill
  • Elise Hansen
  • Jack Gallagher
  • Olivia Kantwill

Completing over 100 hours through May 31st:

  • Alvin Thomas
  • Joseph Liu
  • Shiri Yadlin