For the third straight year, a group of LSJ alumni, faculty and current students spent a February Saturday lending a helping hand to the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC).
DESC provides both temporary and permanent housing to Seattle’s homeless community and works to transition people who are living on the streets into more permanent and sustainable living situations. Many of the DESC’s clients have simply fallen on hard times and just need temporary housing and assistance finding work to get back on their feet. Others of their clients suffer from debilitating mental illness or problems with addiction and rely on the DESC to survive.
The group of twenty-three LSJ students, past and present, were accompanied by program staff to paint the first floor of the Morrison Hotel in downtown Seattle. Everyone worked hard, but everyone also enjoyed themselves.
One of the student attendees, James Coatsworth ’14, said, “I’ve learned quite a bit about organizations similar to the DESC in my LSJ classes, even writing a paper or two about their efforts in the Seattle area. It’s really rewarding to get first-hand experience in helping them to accomplish their mission. I also enjoyed meeting LSJ alums from years past and hearing about their experiences in the real world.”
As James mentioned, in addition to getting hands-on experience with some of the issues at the core of the LSJ curriculum and contributing to the greater Seattle community, the event also provided the opportunity for faculty and current students alike to chat with alumni and see the wide range of career paths their LSJ degrees have enabled them to pursue.
LSJ Director Steve Herbert said, “This was our third day of service event, and they have all been immensely rewarding. It is wonderful to interact with both alumni and current students, and to facilitate them getting to know one another. And to be able to support a worthy organization like DESC makes it all the more satisfying.”
The LSJ day of service is also a great way for former students to stay involved with the program while continuing to explore the issues that they studied in their time with LSJ at the UW.
Alumnus Doug McManaway ’10 said, “I attended the event because my LSJ education has helped me realize the value I place on putting words into action. I refuse to be a seminar warrior, talking about issues of justice and inequity and not doing anything. I think fellow LSJ alumni and current students feel similarly.
“My experience at the Morrison was unique” he continued. “I saw residents who I have encountered before on the streets, and it challenged a lot of my assumptions about their day-to-day lives. Working in environments like the Morrison introduced me to people I frequently do not think about or dismiss as I go about my day. The opportunity to learn more about people who are both similar yet different than me was rewarding and an opportunity for growth.”
The experience of alumnus Amanda Carson ’08 was similar. “Even after graduating almost six years ago,” she said, “I still feel passionate about social justice and community involvement, especially with under-served populations. Working at the Morrison with the DESC was a great opportunity to make a visible impact on the individuals who live there.”
The LSJ program was tremendously excited to offer a helping hand to the DESC, which depends on the efforts of volunteers and whose work is so important to Seattle’s homeless citizens. The group spent the day taping, spackling, and painting the walls of Morrison building that were in need of some care and attention. The group managed to repaint the entire first floor of the building in record time, a feat for which the staff and residents were immensely grateful.
The LSJ program would like to thank everyone who was able to donate their time to such an important cause and we hope that everyone involved with LSJ will keep an eye out for future service events, including an upcoming event at the Ryther Child Center this April.
This article was written by Chase Beauclair.