Helping Hands: A Week of Service

by Sophia Elfrink

Winterim looks different for each person.

The students in the Helping Hands Winterim committed to a full week of immersive service work throughout the community. Alongside Austin Pritchard and Erin Romano, a small group of students, and a mini van trekked across the Portland metro area providing assistance to various organizations.

The first day we began our journey at Blanchet House. Blanchet House is an organization committed to offering aid, food, and care to those in need of a safe place. Blanchet House offers breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week to anyone in need. Our particular task was to assemble sack lunches to send out to students in need of a nourishing meal. We stepped away from Blanchet House covered in peanut butter and having made over 230 lunches. We later traveled to the park blocks where we spent the rest of the day picking up trash. Decked out in snazzy  safety vests, we used tong like contraptions to pick up litter. The sheer amount of cigarette butts we found in just a small strip of grass was appaling. This work focused my attention on just the trash, eclipsing the enjoyment of an otherwise beautiful day. Now it is difficult to walk down the street without noticing trash.

The next day we volunteered at the cat adoption team. Although personally I despise cats, I knew I was doing work that would help each animal find a safe home. We spent our day unloading kennels and building them. I can now say that I am an expert on kennels. We were also able to interact with the cats. I chose not to touch any of them but it brought me great joy to see my peers enjoying the felines.

After we had returned from a relaxing weekend, we ventured to Meals on Wheels. This is an organization that addresses senior hunger and care. Each day they deliver and serve meals to seniors in need of care. At the facility we worked on conveyor belts. I was on bread duty, which required me to put a piece of bread on each plate. Surprisingly, I really struggled with this simple task. The conveyor belt moved so rapidly that found myself often missing a plate. 

The next few days we helped Peter Langley complete some projects in the Bio lab. We visited a few more organizations and prepared for our last days of service.

The final two organizations we visited were Clay Street Table and Saint André Bessette Church. Both of these organizations provide food and care to those facing homelessness around Portland. These two opportunities were really eye opening because we were able to directly connect and serve people who are facing challenges quite different than our own. We were able to share a meal alongside some people who were experiencing homelessness. Having an eye-to-eye conversation with the homeless made me realize just how much we miss in our daily lives. The people that we might walk past on a regular basis each have their own story. We also had the opportunity to pass out sandwiches around downtown Portland. Being able to see the change we were making on a personal level really changed my perspective on life. I was so inspired by how thankful each person was that we encountered. The small act of handing a sandwich to someone changed their whole day.

After my experience during Winterim, I can say that I gained some new perspectives on life. I learned that whatever my concerns are on a daily basis, they are very minor in comparison to the challenges of many others. I began to really understand what it means to be thankful.

Which leads me to ask the question: why should you volunteer?

Aside from the obvious benefits of helping the community and creating positive change, volunteering can actually have a meaningful impact on you. Taking a moment to step away from your personal life, and instead, putting your energy into helping someone can be inspiring.

The opportunity to work towards something without expecting anything in return is quite refreshing. If you are feeling lost or unsure of where to start when looking for a volunteer opportunity I suggest thinking of a specific population or issue you feel passionate about. Perhaps you have a strong love for cats, children, or the elderly. Maybe the issue of climate change and pollution worries you. Whatever your interests may be I encourage you to find a way to take action.

Start logging your service hours and become an active changemaker!

Interested in volunteering and serving our community?

Listed below are some organizations that we visited throughout the week. Included is contact information for each organization.


Clay Street Table:

Saint André Bessette Church:

Cat Adoption Team:


Blanchet House:

Meals on Wheels:


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