The Serve Project Guide A Primer for volunteering with La Puente We donâ€™t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.
- Howard Zinn
CONTENT Overview of La Puente.............................................................................3 Programs of La Puente..........................................................................4-7 Why Volunteer?.......................................................................................8 Your Host...............................................................................................9 The Work..............................................................................................10 Group Discussion..................................................................................11 Trip Requirements............................................................................12-13 The Weekâ€™s Plan....................................................................................13 Lodging................................................................................................14 What to Bring/What NOT to Bring.....................................................15 Important Reminders............................................................................16 San Luis Valley Information.............................................................17-20 San Luis Valley Statistics........................................................................20 Area Attractions...............................................................................21-22 Map of the San Luis Valley.....................................................................23 Map of Alamosa.....................................................................................24 In the Service of Life - Rachel Naomi Remen...................................25-27 Braving the Employerâ€™s Market - Dan DeCesare..............................28-30 Dignity - Chad Parmenter................................................................31-32 At the Heart of Service - Lance Cheslock.........................................33-37 Panhandling: A Little Understanding - Rae Chamberlain.................38-41 What Can You Do After You Leave La Puente?................................42-43 Needs List.............................................................................................44 Extra Thinking.......................................................................................45 Inspirational Words..........................................................................46-47 Some names have been changed to protect anonymity
La Puente Home is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado. We provide emergency shelter, food assistance, emergency services, case management, transitional housing and self-sufficiency services, homeless prevention and community outreach services, job training and employment services for the homeless and community members in crisis. La Puente endeavors to meet immediate needs and empowers people to live independently with dignity.
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La Puente Home Overview La Puente Home, Inc. began in 1982 as a response to the San Luis Valley community’s need to house and provide assistance to the number of homeless and underserved people in the Valley. Originally run through the local Catholic church, La Puente began with only a homeless shelter in the church’s basement. During the late 1980’s, they hired a director for the program, and La Puente became an independent organization. Throughout the late 80’s and 90’s, La Puente expanded as more and more needs in the Valley were recognized. Today La Puente serves an even larger number of people in the San Luis Valley. The organization continues to focus upon points of poverty in the area by meeting immediate needs, providing crisis stabilization and homeless prevention services. La Puente also strives to address community barriers, promote the empowerment and self-sufficiency of individuals and families while raising public awareness and building community support for La Puente’s mission.
The Shelter has been the heart and soul of operations since La Puente’s inception.
Programs of La Puente Emergency Shelter annually provides over 10,000 nights of emergency shelter to over 700 people, including more than 60 families. The shelter is family-friendly, providing a safe and quiet place to stabilize and rebuild oneâ€™s life. Shelter residents are engaged in developing a personal plan to transition out of the shelter. Volunteers work one-on-one to assist residents with their job search, medical and counseling appointments, and entering the wider network of services and support needed for a successful transition. Appropriate facility design and programming allow for safehouse services and extended stays for homeless veterans. La Puente is the only agency within 120 miles that meets this critical need for families, displaced workers, returning veterans, migrant farmworkers, singles, and others we serve. Meal Program La Puente serves more than 40,000 meals annually to shelter residents and low-income members of the community. Daily nutritious meals including breakfast, lunch, and dinner are prepared by churches, volunteers and shelter residents to ensure food security while building a sense of community. Outreach and Homeless Prevention assists over 1,000 households annually in averting crises that may lead to homelessness. Outreach provides emergency utility, rent, and mortgage assistance to households throughout the 6 county service area. Financial assistance is coupled with situation assessment, landlord and employer mediation (if needed), enrollment into the appropriate service network, assistance with applications, translation aid, and material provisions such as clothing and furniture. Outreach also provides help with accessing local health providers, navigating individuals through the benefits and enrollment requirements to receive needed care, prescriptions, and special one-time grants to assist individuals with unique vision or dental needs. Adelante is La Puenteâ€™s long-term transitional housing program serving homeless families. Using ten donated homes and five rent vouchers, the program provides a supportive network that endeavors to build family self-reliance and stability. Families have five requirements:
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1) education and skill development, 2) developing family budget and finance skills, 3) completion of parenting curriculum, 4) completion of life-skills curriculum, and 5) full family participation in counseling. This transitional housing program targets Valley families who are homeless and motivated to increase their self sufficiency. The Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley provides the management and support for thirteen food pantries throughout the San Luis Valley, distributing a three day supply of nutritionally sound food to needy families and individuals. Groceries for over 350,000 meals are provided annually from 13 volunteer staffed pantries located in Alamosa, Monte Vista, Fort Garland, San Luis, La Jara, Capulin, Antonito, Center, Saguache, Moffat, Crestone, Del Norte and Creede. The Gleaning Project uses volunteers from schools, churches, and the community to recover produce left behind in the fields after harvest. Food is distributed to low-income families. The Gleaning Project recovers and distributes over 30,000 pounds of fresh produce each year. Alamosa Community Gardens teaches gardening and nutrition, while providing healthy produce to local community services. The Alamosa Community Garden works with multiple partners and many community volunteers to educate children about growing food for the community and about the benefits of eating fresh foods.
The Community Garden operates on the help of numerous volunteers.
Re-threads provides free clothing to those who cannot afford attire for field work, job interviews or those who simply do not have enough. PALS, â€œPositive Activities Lead to Success,â€? is an after school, vacation day, and summer program providing a structured, safe environment for children ages 5 to 9 whose families are navigating through trauma. PALS children are either homeless, referred by the Department of Human Services (DHS), and evidence severe social behavioral challenges and home safety risks. PALS primary goal is to provide a safe haven for children who are at high risk of child abuse in their home. Additionally, PALS provides academic tutoring, life and social skills coaching, community service, artistic expression, field trips, and experiential opportunities with community partners, geared to the needs and interests of each child. La Puente Enterprises, is a branch of La Puente whose primary purpose is to provide earned income to La Puente through the resale of second-hand goods and the development of other earned income projects. La Puente Enterprises carries a secondary purpose of providing employment, employment training opportunities, and outreach assistance to the homeless and community members in crisis.
Milagros has been a mainstay in the SLV community for many years now.
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Rainbow’s End is La Puente’s community thrift store in Alamosa and Monte Vista. The Hunt Avenue Boutique sell antiques, collectables, and vintage clothing, as well as crafts from third-world cooperatives through the Mennonite Church’s “Ten Thousand Villages” initiative. Milagros Coffee Shop is a full menu cafe, coffee specialty shop and used book store. Milagros is nick-named Alamosa’s community living room, and hosts a variety of events including art shows, concerts, movies, and poetry readings. All enterprises serve as public relation store-fronts for La Puente’s service programs. The Volunteer Program provides opportunities for individuals and groups to help facilitate our services to the people of the San Luis Valley. The opportunities that are available include: preparing meals and performing shift work at the shelter, assisting at the food pantries, working with children, helping with repair and maintenance projects, thrift store work, special entertainment and much more. The program coordinates week and weekend-long service learning groups, individual community volunteer assignments, and facilitates 1 year, full-time service placements for 25-30 adults who work the front-lines of La Puente’s programs. Over the Rainbow Apartments provides shelter for low-income renters. Community Education works to promote understanding of the issues of homelessness and poverty through building relationships within our community and beyond, so that people might be inspired to take action by compassion for those affected. Through the creative design of publications, special events, social media communications, presentations, and public media engagements, La Puente’s community education efforts work to bring insight and compassion to the social justice challenges in working with the homeless, immigrants, the mentally ill, and people struggling in poverty. “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow-men; and along those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” Herman Melville
Every project, no matter the size, is a valuable service to La Puente’s organization.
Why Volunteer? Volunteering can be a very rewarding activity. Serving others can be demanding, hard and slow work. If you are looking to make monumental change, you’ve come to the wrong place. Change, especially here, is slow, but meaningful. Most of volunteering is what you put into it. The joys of volunteering come when you almost forget why you came, and allow yourself to make connections with others, different from yourself. When you become immersed in your work and the environment, you are fully present to the moment and people you are working with. In this situation, volunteering benefits your spirit, those around you, and can motivate others to make a difference in our world. “Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough,
money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.”
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A volunteer coordinator will lead your group through your work week.
Your Host Full-time volunteers at La Puente come from all over the nation to serve one to two year terms with La Puente. The group collectively holds a variety of first-hand volunteering experiences. During your time at La Puente you will work hand in hand with a volunteer coordinator who will guide you through the various facets of the La Puente organization. Your Volunteer Coordinator will be your point of contact before, during and after your visit to La Puente. While youâ€™re here at La Puente your Volunteer Coordinator will organize a variety of projects for your work group to participate in throughout the week, while also leading group discussions about different aspects of homelessness, poverty, hunger relief and other societal hardships that your group may come into contact with on your visit. And whether you have questions about the organization as a whole, or wish to know more about the people your group is impacting, you should feel free to talk with your coordinator about any part of your visit.
The Work As a non-profit, La Puente relies heavily on donations. Whether that be monetary, material or time, voluntary giving is what keeps us moving forward and allows us to provide the services that are so greatly needed here in the Valley. It is amazing what a group of people can accomplish in one week’s time! In the past, volunteer work groups have given to La Puente in countless ways from painting houses, shelves, porches, chairs and fences, to gleaning potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and spinach for the shelter, food bank and other community members. “Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received...only what you have given; a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.” St Francis of Assisi
Work groups often help cook and serve at the shelter during their visit.
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Group Discussion During the week your group will encounter many new ideas and situations. Some of these experiences may be uncomfortable or confusing; therefore, the purpose of a group discussion is to allow the group time to process what they have seen and done during the week As with any new situation, there will likely be a lot going on in your head. Therefore, we believe it is extremely important to provide space in a group setting to grapple with some of the larger issues surrounding homelessness, malnutrition and poverty. Time is also available for your group to ask your Volunteer Coordinator any questions that you might have. The purpose of the discussions are not to find answers. Generally, there are no “right answers” to the questions that may arise. Therefore, we believe that everyone has the right to be heard and to express themselves. It also means that everyone has the right to listen without judgement or comment during another person’s time to speak.
Discussions facilitated by your Volunteer Coordinator provide times for questions.
Trip Requirements - We greatly appreciate your interest in coming to La Puente and helping us! Please note that group size should be limited to 12-15 people. This helps to keep things manageable and ensures that everyone will have work to do. - Each volunteer group will be assigned to a La Puente volunteer who will coordinate their activities and work with the group during their stay. Volunteer groups are asked to contribute $25 per person for each work day. These funds pay for your work supplies, extra food, and help defray costs associated with our staff member assigned to your group. - We ask that you send us your nonrefundable deposit once you are booked, to secure your spot with us. The deposit must be in no later than two months prior to your arrival otherwise your group will be cancelled. This deposit should be half of your total service trip fees, up to $500. Example: 10 people x $25 x 4 days= $1,000/2= $500 deposit. - If your group needs lodging accomodations, we will coordinate with a local church to find you a place to stay. To offset church costs (cleaning etc.) groups are expected to donate $100 to the church.
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- All ages are welcome here. If you are bringing a youth group, there should be one adult for every five youth. - We rely heavily on visiting work groups to help us serve the people of the San Luis Valley. Many of these work groups come year after year. Group leaders are strongly encouraged to contact La Puente far in advance (many months), especially if you plan on coming to serve during the summer months.
The Weekâ€™s Plan Most groups enjoy a weeklong trip, while others might come for a 2-3 day alternative. You are encouraged to bring volunteers during week days. This is when we are fully staffed and better able to plan your activities and take full advantage of your efforts. This is an example of a typical weeklong schedule: - Arrive Sunday evening, get settled, and meet with your volunteer coordinator to go over the schedule. - Work Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. - Wednesday is generally a Valley day to go hiking, skiing, etc. - Time will be set aside during your trip for group discussion. - Your trip will conclude with evaluations and good byes on Friday evening after dinner.
Lodging In most cases, we schedule your group’s lodging at a local church. This means you can count on floor space for sleeping, bathrooms with showers, and a full kitchen for your group to make breakfast. It is important that your group properly cleans the church and follows their guidelines during your stay. Bedding and food for breakfast will not be provided, so plan accordingly. Lunch and dinner are served at the Shelter, and we encourage groups to cook and eat most meals there. If you wish to make your own lodging arrangements, please contact your Volunteer Coordinator. “Hospitality is not kindness. It is openness to the unknown, trust of what frightens us, the expenditure of self on the unfamiliar, the merging of unlikes. Hospitality binds the world together.” Joan Chittister in “In a High Spiritual Season”
Groups from out of town are able to stay at our local churches during their visit.
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What to Bring/ What NOT to bring Bring: - Water. We can’t emphasize this enough! We live in a high, desert valley, and dehydration occurs rapidly. Drink plenty of water during your stay. - Sunscreen, even if it seems cloudy! - Work Clothes. Bring clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and comfortable shoes. - An open mind. - Journal. - Bedding. DO NOT Bring: - Flip Flops or loose shoes for working. - Revealing or inappropriate clothing. No half shirts or tank tops, regardless of how hot it might be outside. This will help prevent uncomfortable situations for you, your fellow group members, and the clients we serve. - Preconceived notions. - Some groups choose to live a more simplistic lifestyle during their time at La Puente. They might leave behind things such as cell phones, music, excess clothing, etc. This can help groups focus more fully on their service and purpose here. It can be a fun, challenging and growing experience to live with less, even for just a week! “Give us, Señor, a little sun, a little happiness, and some work. Give us a heart to comfort those in pain. Give us the ability to be good, strong, wise and free so that we may be generous with others as we are with ourselves. Finally, Señor, let us all live in your own, one family.” Written on a church wall in Mexico
Important Reminders - La Puente Home is shelter for many people. Volunteers are asked to respect it as such, and conversation should stay at appropriate noise levels and content. - 33% of the homeless population has been diagnosed as suffering from mental illness- an important fact to keep in mind during interactions with guests at our shelter. - Please respect our guests and ask for their permission before taking photos of them. - La Puente will provide lunch and dinner (sometimes made by you!), but breakfast is on your own. - Service projects include things like peeling potatoes to building and painting fences. We encourage a rotation through the different projects so that everyone has a well rounded experience here. - Once again, pack appropriate clothing. - Perhaps the most important reminder: keep an open mind and be FLEXIBLE. Life changes, and things at La Puente do too.
Inform your coordinator of any skills that you or someone in your group can contribute.
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San Luis Valley Information Geography and Climate La Puente is located at 7,500 feet, in the center of the San Luis Valley, the world’s highest alpine desert valley. The Valley is larger than the state of Connecticut and is surrounded by the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which include many peaks over 14,000 feet. The headwaters of the Rio Grande River are in the San Juan Mountains, and the river runs right through Alamosa. The Valley is considered a desert because we receive about 7 inches of rain a year. However, that means we have over 320 days of sunshine! Temperatures in the winter can be anywhere from -30 to 65 degrees, so be prepared for extremes! In the springtime, we tend to have high winds and some snow. Summer is “wonderful,” and mild as the arid nature of the Valley cools it down considerably at night. During the day you can expect temperatures from 70 to 90 degrees F.
History and Culture The Valley has a rich and cultured history. For thousands of years, Ute Indians populated the area until their removal in 1895. Jicarilla Apache, Pueblo, Comanche and Kiowa Indians also passed through or hunted here. Many petroglyphs are still visible. Several Spanish explorers and a few American explorers traveled through the Valley, including Zebulon Pike. The U.S. Army established Fort Massachusetts on the eastern side of the Valley. Many people in the Valley are descendents of settlers who lived in the Valley when it was still part of Mexico. Currently, Alamosa is the largest town in the Valley with about 8,000 inhabitants. It is also home to Adams State University and Trinidad State Junior College. Economy Since the San Luis Valley is remote and lacks major industry, it has a high percentage of poverty. The two main industries in the Valley
Migrant workers are often the ones who pick the lettuce that ends up on our plates.
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are farming and tourism. The Valley is the second largest producer of potatoes in the country. Other crops include broccoli, carrots, lettuce, spinach and corn. Both of these industries are water dependent, so, if there is a dry winter in the Valley, the economy suffers. Migrant/Seasonal Workers The agricultural nature of the San Luis Valley means that every year, between June and October, there is a large influx of migrant and seasonal farmworkers, mostly from the southwest United States and Mexico. Around 4,000 workers move through the Valley during the short growing season (90 days). They are paid “by piece,” meaning their income is based on how much they pick sort, rather than by “Around 4,000 workers move or how many hours they through the Valley during the work. For many, migrant short growing season ..." farm work is an occupation of last resort. Either their own hometown is suffering economically, or they lack the skills needed to obtain other employment. Many migrant workers choose to travel north during the harvest looking for work. Agriculture workers have fewer resources and support services than any other work sector. Unlike other labor industries, agricultural workers are not covered by the Wagner Act of 1935, which protects a laborer’s right to unionize. Therefore, migrant workers can be subject to unfair treatment and have little recourse. The problem with unionization and migrant labor is that migrant workers are not stationary, so it is difficult to build a base for solidarity. Housing for the migrant population has always been difficult, because they are a transient group. Providing short term housing for 4,000 people can be very challenging. As a result, many are forced to live in tent cities or hotels. For most, slum housing is the only option. Around 1995, OSHA informed our farmers that the housing conditions for their workers needed to improve. Several farmers got together and with the help of the USDA and federal loans, Tierra Nueva was built. Tierra Nueva provides housing for 1,000-1,500 farm workers and their families. Tenants at Tierra Nueva pay 30% of their income for rent, which is verified through their employer to ensure that they are
charged a fair amount. For many migrant workers, the decision to leave home and travel for several months is difficult, but is based on needs that must be fulfilled. A middle-aged man who stayed at the shelter shared how he received news that his eldest son was in jail back in Mexico. He wondered whether his lack of prescence in his sonâ€™s life led him to jail. At the same time, the decision to bring a whole family along on a transient journey means that children will be in and out of schools and forced to live in slum housing. Neither decision is an easy one to make. This information does not encompass the whole story, nor is the situation black and white. As you identify questions, please feel free to ask.
Each year there are about 100 migrant workers who stay at La Puente Home.
Valley Life - Over 20% of the Valleyâ€™s population live in poverty. Roughly less than 1 in 4 people living in the Valley have medical insurance. Food - In 2012, the Food Bank Network served an estimated 13,200 people, which is 27% of the valley. - The Alamosa Food Bank used donations from local farmers, stores, producers, and the Gardens to feed an estimated 7,000 households with our weekly system. Youth - As of 2011, 30.5% of children under the age of 18 are living below the poverty line in the San Luis Valley. In 2011, 71% of children in Alamosa County qualified for a free or reduced lunch. - Alamosa County has the 4th highest child maltreatment rate in the state of Colorado.
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Area Attractions Great Sand Dunes National Park 30 square miles of sand dunes at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains rising over 750 ft. Good hiking, exploring and sledding. Call 719.378.6399 for more information. East on 160 to 150, go north until the end of the road. Fortyfive minute drive. Zapata Falls Beautiful, 50 foot falls carved out glacially deposited rocks. Easy, 1/2 mile hike, one way. South of the sand dunes on 150, turn at the radio tower. Fortyfive minute drive. Joyful Journey Hot Springs Soak in one of three built up pools fed by natural hot springs. Call for rates, 719.256.4328. North on 17, right after Moffat. One hour drive. Valley View Hot Springs Soak in one of 5 natural hot springs or 3 built up pools filled with hot spring water while looking out over the Valley. Clothing optional. Call for group rates, 719.256.4315. North on 17, east on GG (dirt road). One and a quarter hour drive.
Crestone Many varying hikes from this stunning mountain town and spiritual community. Five 14,000 foot peaks. North on 17. Right just before Moffat at marked road. One hour drive. Taos, NM Taose単o Pueblo over 1,000 years old at the foot of the Sangres. Beautiful adobe structures, indian crafts and art galleries. Along the way, check out the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and Earthship community. South on 285. East on 64 at Tres Piedras. Right at light. One and three quarter hour drive. San Luis Oldest town in Colorado. Stations of the Cross pilgrimage. East on 160. South on 159. Forty-five minute drive. Creede Old mining town with tours of mines, pretty scenery and great hiking. West on 160. Road 149 towards Creede, then follow signs. One and a quarter hour drive. Rafting World class rafting on the Arkansas River runs throughout the summer. Many rafting companies in Salida and Buena Vista. North on 17 to 285, through Poncha Pass. One and half hour drive. Skiing and Snowboarding There are several options for skiing during November through March. Below are the closest options: Wolf Creek: www.wolfcreekski.com West on 160 to Wolf Creek Pass. One and a half hour drive. Monarch Ski & snowboard Area: www.skimonarch.com North on 17 to 285, through pass. West on 50. One and a half hour drive.
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S LV an uis
to Poncha Pass, Salida, Buena Vista
to Gunnison, Crested Butte
Valley View Hot Springs
GG Joyful Journey Hot Springs
San Luis Lakes
to Del Norte, Creede, Wolf Creek 160
Town Point of Interest Road Mountain
*Map NOT drawn to scale*
Alamosa Wildlife Refuge
BLANCA 14,345 Ft. Garland Blanca
to La Veta I-25
to Antonito, Taos, La Jara
to San Luis, Taos
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In the Service of Life Rachel Naomi Remen
In recent years the question “how can I help?” has become meaningful to many people. Perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider; perhaps the real question is not “how can I help?” but “how can I serve?” Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship between equals. When you help, you use your own strength to aid those of lesser strength. If I’m attentive to what’s going on inside of me when I’m helping, I find that I’m always helping someone who’s not as strong as I am, who is needier than I am. People feel this inequality. When we help we may, inadvertently, take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness. When I help I am very aware of my own strength. Yet, we don’t serve with our strength, we serve with ourselves. We draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve, our wounds serve, even our darkness can serve. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me.
A young PAL latches onto the back of his work group big buddy.
Service is a relationship between equals. Helping incurs debt. When you help someone they owe you one. But service, like healing, is mutual. There is no debt. I am as served as the person I am serving. When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have a feeling of gratitude. These are different things. Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person, I perceive them as broken, and their brokenness requires me to act. When I fix, I do not see the wholeness in the other person or trust the integrity of the life within them. When I serve I see and trust that wholeness. It is what I am responding to and collaborating with. There is a distance between ourselves and whatever or whomever we are fixing. Fixing is a form of judgement. All judgement creates distance, a disconnection, an experience of difference. In fixing there is an inequality of experience that can easily become a moral distance. We cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch. This is Mother Teresa’s basic message: “We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy”. If helping is an experience of strength, fixing is an experience of mastery and expertise. Service, on the other hand, is an experience of mystery, surrender and awe. A fixer has the illusion of being casual. A server knows that he or she is being used and has a willingness to be used in the service of something greater, something essentially unknown. Fixing and helping are very personal; they are very particular, concrete and specific. We fix and help many different things in our lifetimes, but when we serve we are always serving the same thing. Everyone who has ever served through the history of time serves the same thing. We are servers of the wholeness and the mystery of life. The bottom line, of course is that we can fix without serving. And we can serve without fixing or helping. I would go so far as to say that fixing and helping may often be the work of the ego, and service is the work of the soul. They may look similar if you’re watching from the outside, but the inner experience is different. The outcome is often different, too. Our service serves us as well as others. That which uses us strengthens us. Over time, fixing and helping are draining, depleting. Over time, we burn out. Service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will sustain us. Service rests on the basic premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose. Fundamentally, helping, fixing
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The Food Bank helps to serve roughly a quarter of the Valley.
and serving are ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak, when you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. From the perspective of service, we are all connected: all suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. The impulse to serve emerges naturally and inevitably from this way of seeing. Lastly, fixing and helping are the basis of curing, but not of healing. Throughout my forty years of chronic illness I have been helped by many people and fixed by a great many others who did not recognize my wholeness. All that fixing and helping left me wounded in some important and fundamental ways. Only service heals. Some Things to Think About - What do you think Remen means when she says, â€œfixing and helping may often be the work of the ego, and service is the work of the soul?â€? - Remember a time when you were helped, fixed and served. How did each make you feel? What is the difference? - What can we do to cultivate service in ourselves and others?
Braving the Employer’s Market Dan Decesare
Having spent the majority of my life near major cities, I thought I understood how retail stores operated. I was under the impression that they maintain a bare minimum of staff during the majority of the year. Then, they hire some temporary staff between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day when the stores are at their busiest. At the end of the holiday rush, the temporary staff are let go. As with so many other things, I had to learn the hard way that the San Luis Valley works a little differently. In the San Luis Valley, extra help is not needed at retail stores in December. Extra help is needed on farms in the spring and fall when the crops are being harvested. Retail sales do increase during December, but not enough to warrant hiring extra employees. How can “How can sales increase sales increase when many of the migrant farm workers when many of the migrant have moved on and farmers farm workers have moved no longer have the income they had a couple of months on and farmers no longer before? All of these circumstances have the income they had a help to create an employer’s couple of months before?” market. In other words, jobs are few, and employers can pick and choose who they want to hire. If I needed to hire someone and my choices were someone with a criminal record and someone without a criminal record, I would be inclined to hire the person without the criminal record. Not surprisingly, most employers feel the same way. Since jobs in the San Luis Valley are scarce to begin with, finding a job for someone with a criminal record is a huge challenge. You would think that once people have paid their debt to society, they should be able to move on with their lives. Unfortunately, some people are stuck paying
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Employer’s Market(continued.. ) for their mistakes for the rest of their lives, because they can’t get jobs. La Puente attempts to assist people in this situation by hiring them at places such as Rainbow’s End thrift stores. Once they have proven themselves at Rainbow’s End, we can then give them a reccomendation when they transition to their next job. Another difference between the San Luis Valley and a big city is that everyone in the San Luis Valley seems to know everyone else. This makes it very difficult to keep a secret. If someone has not been able to keep a steady job, the person develops a “bad” reputation. Employers will find out about this, which will discourage them from hiring the person. Thus, people are prevented from obtaining jobs because of the reputations they have little control over. Once again, La Puente attempts to help people in these situations by hiring them at one of La Puente’s Enterprises and then transitioning them to another job. Some of the most difficult positions to fill are jobs where employees are required to own their own vehicles. Not everyone owns their own car. Without a job, they cannot exactly afford to buy a car either. There is not much you can do in a situation where a car is required except advise the
Unemployment makes providing for a family much more difficult.
Without a steady income, many people have no where else turn other than the shelter.
person to pass on that job and look for another one. The Job Readiness Training Program tries to do what it can. The JRT Program hires people with the goal of recommending them to future employers. However, participants in the JRT program expect to get paid. Since La Puente does not have enough money to hire everyone who needs a job, we are left in the same situation; more potential employees than available jobs. It is a difficult catch-22, and a simple solution has not yet presented itself. Maybe, there is nothing we can do except wait until the tough winter months are over and extra help is needed on the farms again. Some Things to Think About - What are the main industries where you live? How do they affect the job market? Are they seasonal, paid by piece, hourly, etc....? - How do people who donâ€™t have personal transportation get to their jobs? Do you have public transportation in your area? How would taking public transportation affect your day?
The SERVE Project Guide
Dignity Chad Parmenter
Today, a man came up to my table at Milagros. He kept his beard a long, coppery snarl, well-tended at the fringes. His face showed a suntoughened red, tan under the new burn. His eyes shifted constantly, taking what they needed and no more. He asked for money to buy lunch. I dug a one out of my wallet and weighed it with change in his hand. He gave a grunt of thanks, and the worry furrow between his eyebrows grew a little deeper from some strain of mind or muscle. Asked why he didn’t eat for free at La Puente, all he would say was, “I don’t like it there.” Then he told me about his tent Asked why he didn’t eat for and new sleeping bag, how he didn’t want to buy the free at La Puente Home, all sleeping bag, but he had he would say was, “I don’t to, to keep warm. Then he strode through the door in like it there.” thin sandals that must leave his feet cold, even in August. I started thinking about La Puente, the hot meals, the friendly servers, the drowsy cats out back that sit at the picnic tables like people, and the beds that had to be better than a sleeping bag in whatever cold place he’d chosen as home. It had to be more comfortable than the life he’d chosen. It seemed that what he didn’t like was having to depend on others to survive. Maybe his sleeping bag will keep him warm through the winter, and he can eat what he wants on money collected around town. But the impression I got was one of a need for him to live on his own, to fend for himself. Maybe that’s more me. Maybe the most telling part of this story is “my table at Milagros,” the automatic sense of ownership I got from buying coffee and picking a place to sit. It wasn’t my table, but I felt an earned right to call it mine. It’s easy to take free meals at the shelter, not just because the food’s good and the people are nice, but because I work there and feel like I
Shelter guests are often a wealth of knowledge waiting to share their stories.
earned it. Consciously, I know it can’t be earned, but a kind of dignity comes from feeling like I’ve paid for everything. If I needed to eat and live there, would I? If I had a sleeping bag and a tent, I might stay out until I absolutely had to come in, just for the feeling of owning where I was. So many people accept free help at the shelter, knowing that they can’t pay it back. They need to do it to live, and in doing so, they leave behind the idea that you’re worth what you own. It’s an idea that drives me, and that I don’t feel the presence of as long as I live on plenty. We don’t know how much dignity we have, and how much we need to be owners to keep it, until it’s threatened. It’s easy to say that accepting help takes a deeper dignity, and it’s much harder to tap into that. The guests at the shelter tap into it every day. The man tapped into it by asking for money. I hope he’ll tap into it by coming to the shelter in the winter, if he doesn’t have his own place. Some Things to Think About - Have you ever had a time when you needed some kind of help, but didn’t ask for it? - Why do you think people might hesitate to ask for help, even when they really needed it?
The SERVE Project Guide
At the Heart of Service Lance Cheslock
I stood on La Puente’s porch visiting with two new volunteers who had signed up to work shifts at the shelter. We were (and still are) in need of extra help, so I hoped to make a good first impression. I could see these two new folks carried great energy and bright expectations. If I were to present these volunteers with a glossy color brochure about La Puente, the fancy print would suggest that working with the poor should be fairly straight forward. It would seem that all people really need is 1) a bit of smart counseling, 2) connections to resources in the community such as jobs and benefits, and 3) some warm hospitality to see them through to their first pay check. Ideally, this kind of service should quickly see many happy results. Behind the “gloss,” however, is a different reality. Service work is not easy, and though many good people with willing hearts enter service, making a difference is an on-going challenge. Volunteers are initially motivated by optimism and idealism, but it is their ability to cultivate compassion which sustains them. I realized that I needed to help these volunteers establish realistic expectations about their role at the shelter. I remember a friend once saying to me, “The difference between our expectations and reality is the degree to which we suffer.” It was important for me to paint an accurate picture of what service at La Puente would really entail: 1) Service work is mostly a long series of small menial tasks. Chopping carrots, emptying the trash, collating newsletters, running errands, washing dishes, answering the phone, sorting donations, cleaning up messes, .... As with any work, it is tiring. Amidst all these tasks, there is the occasional brilliant moment when one connects with a guest. Such moments come unexpectedly and are real treasures. It is important to see the big picture amidst all the endless little tasks. The hospitality of the shelter is, in fact, the summation of all these little tasks. It is the food, the cleanliness, the friendliness together which create a supportive environment for those we serve. 2) People who are poor or in crisis can be very difficult to work with.
This makes good sense in our heads, yet in practice can be elusive-- If someone has been abused or lost their job or has lost control of their life and is in crisis, it is not difficult to understand why they wouldn’t be in a “good mood.” None-the-less, it can still be hurtful and unpleasant when such folks are ungrateful, express anger inappropriately, or show no motivation. It’s hard to feel compassion for someone who is not “honestly” dealing with their issues. To pour lots of energy into someone and get no “results” can be very frustrating. It’s also easy to slip into the judgment seat about the decisions that a guest made which led to their current “down and out” circumstances. Poverty should never be romanticized. Poverty is ugly. Its biting grip starves the body and spirit and forces uncharacteristic, extreme behavior. When people are so desperate that their only concern is surviving through the day, they take to certain behaviors in their desperation to survive. If all the moral means within their abilities fail to give them what they need to survive, people will often resort to more desperate measures. To survive, people may stretch the truth, manipulate others, steal, or work the system. We can’t condone such actions, but with eyes of compassion we can look below the surface of the individual situations for an understanding of the poverty which forced such behaviors.
Volunteer projects sometimes include maintenance and care of our facilities.
The SERVE Project Guide
At the Heart of Service (continued.. ) This also underscores why it is so important to provide food, shelter, and security. When these basic needs are met, people can begin to look beyond the measures they must take to just survive, and can begin to strategize about how to put their lives back together for the long-term. Certain â€œsurvivalâ€? behaviors will take time to unlearn, but the person is given a new lease on lifeâ€™s possibilities and increased potential. When one sticks with the work long enough, many hidden surprises begin to emerge. In the face of serious and difficult life circumstances, our guests repeatedly demonstrate generosity, helpfulness, wisdom, compassion and celebrative spirits. The goodness of human beings can never be fully squelched, and witnessing the tremendous courage some guests exert to put their lives back together is always an inspiration. 3) The novelty of helping in a new environment will soon wear off. La Puente is a fascinating place to work, given the diversity of people who
Direct and indirect service can be vastly different, but are equally as important.
come through our door. Yet in time, the intrigue of the new cultures will diminish. However, the need for help will not! As volunteers get past the first adventures of their experience, a mood of unfulfillment or ineffectiveness can begin to set in. Sometimes it’s the realization that there are no quick, dramatic results for their efforts. Sometimes its the frustration of having so few resources to meet such great needs. Many have felt that just helping to serve a meal can’t begin to make a difference in someone’s life. The same idealisms we held when we inquired about volunteering can begin to haunt us. The challenge is to stick with the process. It is equally important “When we are faithful to not become dependent upon the outcome, but to just do what needs over time, the fruits to be done without expectation of of service work will be “results.” When we are faithful over time, the fruits of service work will harvested.” be harvested. These fruits of service work will take on many forms. Sometimes they can be new and wonderful relationships, a greater life wisdom, and the development of gifts we never knew we had. Inevitably, people’s lives are impacted, but not always in the same way or the same time-frame that we originally hoped for. I liken it to watering the soil in my yard. Parched earth, when given water will always spring forth new life. Yet the resultant bouquet will have an unpredictable character and beauty. 4) Change is incremental. Whether one is talking about changing behaviors of people, communities, or institutions, I’ve seen that change usually happens in tiny steps over a long period of time. There is no such thing as instant, sweeping change. In situations where large changes might seem to flash before us, what usually has happened is that small bits of change were happening silently over time and eventually gave way to a sweeping, dramatic moment, a “tipping point.” It takes time and discipline to change things. It takes time to heal, to unlearn bad habits, to learn new behaviors, to get in shape, to forgive deep-felt hurts. Often the world is quite impatient as needed changes are awaited. Patience bears fruit. Good, positive change will find us, but at best it creeps at a slow steady pace! Another learning experience that has meant a lot to me is the value of
The SERVE Project Guide
At the Heart of Service (continued.. ) exploring and celebrating the complexities of every person. Each person is made up of many unique facets. The people of La Puente are often labeled by the one part of their life which is out of order. “That’s the alcoholic,” or “He’s the ex-convict,” or “She’s mentally ill,” or “She’s one of those welfare moms.” Labels such as these carry dark, unfair judgments from society. These labels rob people of the breadth of their identity. When we use them, we blind ourselves to the wholeness of the other person. Labels can blind us from seeing what a person is doing right, the gifts they offer the world. Each person holds their own unique story. Each person has their own unique birthright, potential, and dreams. It’s an adventure to discover someone else’s childhood stories, their favorite ice cream flavor and baseball team, and their sense of humor. We can learn from others’ success stories, political viewpoints, spiritual beliefs, and childhood dreams. When we put into this broader perspective the part of someone’s life that is not working, it becomes easier to build upon that person’s strengths. I’ve learned that even when we use terms such as “we” and “they,” we are injecting a separation between ourselves and others. We often erect barriers to protect ourselves from our own vulnerabilities. These barriers close off channels of compassion. A label says, “You’re not like me”; it can prevent the user from fully acknowledging and receiving the other person and from discovering, “Hey, we have something in common!” When we let go of labels, the identity of individuals can come alive! Then, each of us find freedom to fully be ourselves ... As the weeks passed, I observed those two new volunteers develop generous spirits of compassion. They have found a niche which is of great help to us, and have enjoyed a multitude of relationships. I hope they will be with us for a long time! Some Things to Think About - What do you think the most difficult parts of volunteering are? - Why would people continue to serve and volunteer after experiencing shortfalls and/or discouraging experiences? - What would you use as a volunteer to maintain your drive for service?
Panhandling: A Little Understanding Rae Chamberlain
I decided to write this article after being homeless myself for a year and a half, because I learned a few things you cannot learn without being homeless - or at least very close to homelessness and the lives of the people who live it. We talk in statistics - a percentage of people get this, a percentage of people lose that. But what most of us do not realize is that to each person, it is 100% of their lives. Have you ever walked by a person and been approached for money? What did you do? Most people ignore them for whatever reason, whether they have nothing to give or they just gave to someone else, or maybe they fear the person who they feel is accosting them. Whatever the reason, the panhandler is still ignored.
Money is often the object of a panhandlerâ€™s request, but what else is there to give?
The SERVE Project Guide
Panhandling (continued.. ) Some panhandlers get angry when they get no response. This does not happen just a few times; they are ignored many times every day and many times every hour of every day. And not only are they ignored but sworn at, told angrily to get a job, to get away, told they are lazy bums, that they are trash and looked at in disgust. These are only a few of the insults, and the milder ones at that. Yes, the panhandlers are angry at this. But when they ask someone for help and the last person has told them that they are useless trash and spat at them, their anger comes to the surface. They do not ask angrily but get tired of being ignored. So they may yell and give back a little of that which they get every day. I do not condone these actions, but I understand them. “What else can I do?” you ask. I can tell you from my own personal experience being panhandled that I was never yelled at. I had heard that it happened and saw it happen to “I can tell you from someone who was asked right after I I was shocked at how upset the my own personal was. panhandler was and how he took it out experience being on the other guy. The man continued down the street without looking panhandled that I on back. The panhandler paced a few steps was never yelled at.” before sitting on an overturned milk crate and laying his head down on his crossed arms. “You okay?” I asked him. Startled, he looked up. “I saw you yell at that guy,” I said. “What did he do?” “Nothin’, that’s the problem. He did nothin’.” I asked what he meant and heard a story that was to be repeated to me by many people. Each person I asked told me essentially the same thing: they were ignored as if they did not exist. A pattern began to emerge. First was the loss of work, then housing,
A panhandlerâ€™s life is often filled with uncertainty and daily challenges for survival.
going begging to GA (General Assistance, welfare) where they were treated like second class citizens and beggars. Not finding a bed at the shelter, they are hassled on the streets by police. Then, finally they get the courage, yes I mean courage, to ask others for a little change. A person must feel awfully low inside to have to resort to panhandling as a way of getting money for food and a place to sleep, let alone clean clothes and phone change. Note: Bus money to look for work is about as far as GA money goes. A person gets tired of sleeping on the streets. I know. Men are lucky to get a shelter bed once or twice a month. Women fare a little better with a couple of nights a week, but even that gets tiring. After a while you need to sleep in a real bed, have some privacy and take a bath alone. But
The SERVE Project Guide
Panhandling (continued.. ) you do not have money for a hotel room. Where do you get the money? Your last resort, panhandling. When you begin to see what a person must go through day after day, month after month, you gain a little understanding. But you ask what you could do. The reason why I was not yelled at was that I acknowledged panhandlers. I let them know I knew they existed. It was not much, just a look saying that I cannot help. I would look at them, pat my pocket and show an empty hand, or I pointed behind me with my thumb indicating I gave what I could to the last one who asked me. Sometimes I have just said “sorry.” I have also said “not this time,” “I wish I could help,” or “I just gave to the last guy;” all of which was true; I would never lie. When I did these small things I said a lot more than my words did. I said to them, “I acknowledge you exist, I do not look down on you, you are no less a human being than I, and I respect you as a person.” All that in a gesture or a few words. A person who is down on their luck needs a little dignity left inside. If you look, you can even see the depression in their eyes. Panhandling is their last resort as it takes the loss of a lot of self respect to do it. And change to look someone in the face and say, “I need your help.” Some Things to Think About ... - What interactions have you had with people who panhandle? - What are some stereotypes about people who panhandle? - What are situations that bring people to panhandling? - What could communities do differently/better to alleviate this? - What could you give besides money to help a panhandler? “Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and our verb agree to serve... You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Martin Luther King
What can you do after you leave La Puente? If youâ€™ve returned home and you still want to be involved either with La Puente or the homeless/underserved poplulation here are some ideas for action: 1. Think about what your passions are, people you feel drawn to, where you want to become more involved and do a little research. - Do you have a local community food bank? Call them up and see what kind of donations or help they need. - Is there a homeless shelter or thrift store in your area? See what kind of donations they are in need of. - Clean out your closet and donate your clothes to a thrift store. - Host a writing group at your local shelter. - Get creative! There are so many ways to become involved as you cross borders and make connections with people. 2. Want to stay involved with La Puente? - Join our mailing list by calling our office at 719.589.5909, emailing us at email@example.com, or leave your name and address with us before you depart. - Before you come visit, set up a clothing or canned food drive and bring it with you. - Spread the word about your trip to La Puente to your friends and family.
Pictured above is a work group member happily serving a meal at the shelter.
The SERVE Project Guide
3. Want to learn more about global issues regarding poverty and hunger? Check out these websites: www.oxfam.org - Oxfam is a non-profit organization that works for human rights and builds community all over the world. www.oxfamamerica.org - Oxfam’s American division. www.foodsecurity.org - is a non-profit “organization dedicated to building strong, sustainable, local and regional food systems that ensure access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food for all people at all times.” www.bread.org - a Christian organization dedicated to seeking justice for the world’s hungry through lobbying our government. www.care.org - is a non-profit working to end global poverty, with a focus more on women.
This child and his family stayed at the shelter for a time in 2011 before moving on.
When you come to serve, please consider bringing one Of these Items:
Ongoing Needs LIST
- Diapers, all sizes - Pens for office and guest needs - Notebooks - Dry erase and permanent markers - Hygiene Products: Razors Deodorant Tampons and pads Shaving Cream Shampoo and Conditoner - Over the counter medications: Tylenol and Advil Pepto Bismol, Tums Decongestant - Kitchen towels and wash cloths - Spoons
- Plastic drinking glasses - Towels and Blankets - Powdered laundry detergent - Bleach - Paper Towels - Salt and Pepper Shakers - Milk (Fresh or Powdered) - Coffee - Powdered Drink Mixes - New socks and Undies - Sweat pants/scrubs - Canned fruits and vegetables - Hamburger Meat - Macaroni Noodles / Pasta - Fresh Produce - Kids games, books, and movies - Children's Back Packs
PALS children are always excited to meet and greet new friends.
The SERVE Project Guide
Extra Thinking 1) What boundaries exist or need to exist between ourselves as service providers, friends, and advocates; and those we serve? 2) When does a professional posture diminish our ability to relate to people? 3) Are there circumstances where too much friendliness can interfere with what is best for those we serve? 4) What do we mean by “upholding dignity?” 5) What is dignity? 6) What are the situations which most challenge us? 7) What are the tangible constraints which limit service delivery? 8) When is it important to forgive a problem (first time offense? second time? third time?) and reconcile matters, and when is it important to have clear consequences that are upheld with consistency? 9) Discuss “being kind” verses “enabling;” “forgiving” verses “holding accountable;” “enforcing justice,” versus “giving a second chance.” 10) How can the person best learn? 11) In what instances are we acting more compassionately when we deny rather than provide services to an individual? 12) How do we determine at which place our good intentions will become harmful? 13) What are some of the societal norms and expectations of people? 14) How do we manage the people who are distant from or who may never reach societal expectations and norms? 15) How do such norms influence our own judgements of people? These discussions will hopefully impact who we are and how we relate to those we serve. In some instances the discussions will impact who we are as an organization - from the institutional perspective. This means that a few choices will be determined as to the policy of how we do things, yet much of how we care for others can not be institutionalized, but is a product of the people serving at La Puente.
Inspirational Words “Every human being is your counterpart. Every other human being processes and embodies aspects of yourself: your dreams, your sorrows, your hope that your life will not turn out to be a dirty joke. For each of us there was a time when the world was young, a springtime of spirit that was later tested by the winters of discontent; and in the midst of each of our lives lies the haunting shadow of death. Therefore we are all quite alike; indeed at the core we are all one, all lost - and found - in the same mysterious enterprise that is life. Hold this in your heart as you go about your day, and the world will cease to be inhabited by strangers, and the burden of life itself will no longer be a process of loneliness.”
Daphne Rose Kingma
“We are here to listen... not to work miracles.” We are here to help people discover what they are feeling... not to make feelings go away. We are here to help people identify their options... not to decide for them what they should do. We are here to discuss steps with people... not to take steps for them. We are here to help people discover their own strengths... not to rescue them and leave them still vulnerable. We are here to help people discover they can help themselves... not to make responsibility for them. We are here to help people learn to choose... not to make it unnecessary for them to make difficult choices. We are here to provide support for change.” Author Unknown
Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one ...There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, hope and endurance. Love will never come to an end. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
The SERVE Project Guide
“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. I can only feed one person at a time. Just one, just one…So you begin—I begin. I picked up one person—maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person, I wouldn’t have picked up forty-two thousand.The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I didn’t put that drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you, same thing for your family, same thing in the community where you live. Just begin…one, one, one.” Mother Teresa “Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite of what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but gets more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”
Thomas Merton - Letter to a young activist
“The moral test of a society is how that society treats those who are in the dawn of life – the children; those who are in the twilight of life – the elderly; and those who are in the shadow of life – the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” Hubert Humphrey “Too many people are ready to carry the stool when the piano needs to be moved.” Anonymous
La Puente Home P.O. Box 1235 Alamosa, CO 81101 www.lapuente.net 719.589.5909
This booklet outlines what makes up a service trip to La Puente. For more info visit lapuente.net