Last week, a group of students from the Civic Leadership Institute came to the Franciscan Center to do a summer time day of service. Each had the opportunity to work in direct contact with the community that utilizes the programs here at the Center. Our Director of Volunteers, Michael Parker was able to really share how the programs impact the lives of people who live in our community. The students, like many in our own city, come from vastly different walks of life, and this experience seems to have left an impression.

These are the observations from the students, in their words. (These insights are from 14 to 17 year old kids who belong to Civic Leadership Institute program).

Baby & Mother

In line for fomula and diapers … a 3-month-old client and mother.

Student Reflections on the day at the Franciscan Center (7/5/11)

I learned a lot today about privilege.  While working in the pantry, I gave 1 bag of food and bread to people.  When they asked for more, I wasn’t able to give more.  This made me realize how privileged I am to have unlimited access to food when I eat.  I learned a lot about myself and other communities today.

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I loved the experience I had at the Franciscan Center!  First of all, I had never been to a soup kitchen, so this was definitely a first-timer.  Secondly, when I was serving the people at the Center, they all tried to make conversation.  Sometimes they’d thank me, and other times they’d ask about my day.  The last part was pretty good, too.  Considering I attend a Catholic school and that Michael is a pastor, I completely understood what he was saying about dignity.  I’ve already learned that dignity is inherent, and everyone has it, because we’re all born in God’s image and likeness.  Hearing that from Michael again struck a chord in me.  That’s probably the reason why I refused to assume some truths about the people at the Franciscan Center.  I understand where Kevin was coming from, but the thing was that Michael’s words were still fresh in my head and I couldn’t ignore them.  I felt that if I assumed some things about these people, I would be disrespecting their dignity.

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Going today to the soup kitchen was exciting.  I really enjoy the field experiences we get to do.  In comparison to the South Baltimore Station, I think that the Franciscan soup kitchen had many similarities, but also many differences.  The biggest difference is that there is no housing available for those who are homeless, so there’s a sense that wants me to be hopeful but really it’s kind of just a stagnant process that occurs in the soup kitchen, which is what I heard from some of the encounters my peers had; for example, how they mentioned that some of the servers saw the same people every day, even years.  Apart from that, I think that the things they do are amazing.  It’s rapid financial relief which at times can be a lifesaver; I can imagine times when my mom would have wished there were such programs where we live.

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I thought it was AWESOME of Michael for spending the time and effort showing us around and giving us background information about the organization.  I could tell that he is passionate about his job and truly cares for those in need.  It was a different experience than when we went to South Baltimore Station because people from this soup kitchen go for short daily visits and both men and women go.  Overall, I could tell from their simple “thank you’s” when I took their trash for them that the clients were gracious and appreciative.

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I think that the Franciscan Center does a lot of amazing things.  Not only does this program provide food for those struggling to get by, but it provides so much more as well.  I think that all the things that the Franciscan Center does are very important and significant – from helping to find jobs, to clothing, to simply creating a safe and secure environment.  I also really appreciate and admire the mindset of the people who work at the Franciscan Center.  I think it’s very important not to feel any superiority or pity, because that would be a degrading injustice.  The idea of everyone being a child of God conveys this message very well, and this works in the Christian setting of this center.  However this message is made clear, through the idea of God or not, it is an important one.

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The effort and sweat involved in working in the clothing donation area caused me to start thinking about how much work is being doing by volunteers on a daily basis.

I really do appreciate all that the Center is doing for the community.

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A good experience.  I liked serving food to the Center’s clients and helping with cleaning the dining room; and the people I interacted with were very kind and nice.

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What struck me most during today’s experience was the concept of preserving human dignity.  The fact that the Franciscan Center tries to destroy the barrier between “the donors” and “the receivers”, and promotes the idea of equality and equal dignity.  In the context of social justice lessons, this concept reminds me of the idea of privilege, the idea that I as the privileged one owe the poor the excess I’ve been given on their account.  This led me to the realization that I was not today volunteering, but in fact paying my debt.

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I give Michael a lot of credit.  His upbringing and life-journey are extremely inspiring and empowering.  His devotion is an ideal example of the hope which is needed to build thriving communities which are interdependent.

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The first thing that really amazed me was how many programs the Center has.  At first, I thought it was only going to be a place that gave out food, but as I listened to Michael, it turned out to be so much more.  I was very impressed by how many services they had and their reasoning behind them.  For example, Michael pointed out that they pay electricity bills so that people won’t use candles and cause destructive widespread fires.  Hearing this made me realize that the Center’s services had many motives and that they have really thought everything through.  It also reinforced the idea that having people in  volunteering as helping a person in need but also helping themselves, more people would help to make a change in our society.

I found all of the volunteers to be friendly, and Michael was extremely welcoming.  I felt that the patrons’ immediate needs were being met well.  I think the Center is a wonderful place, and I admire their progress toward teaching their patrons how to fish via Attire to Hire and mock interviews.  I find the Center to be a welcoming place for everyone and everyone’s dignity is respected.  I think the Center provides a place of salvation for the community.  I think their efforts are effective but people may need more help.  I hope the Franciscan Center continues to help their community.

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I hadn’t thought about the fact that people experiencing homelessness need suits to get a job, and I have pondered before how they are supposed to get jobs without a mailing address.  I thought these programs at the Franciscan Center were really genius.  I don’t think that the homeless shelter I’ve volunteered at back home has such programs.  I think that those are good ideas to carry back to my hometown.


How are you giving back to your community? What lessons are you learning today? Our hope is that each person that gives time, talent, and treasure to the Center can take much more valuable lessons home, and use them every day.

If you would like to volunteer, or would like information on group and coorporate volunteer opportunities, please contact Michael Parker at or 410-467-5340, Ext. 113