Mission Statement: The PV Volunteers are an ecumenical community of diverse individuals. By providing a service experience in a variety of settings, we respond to human need, form relationships and encourage change and growth both in ourselves and with those we serve.

Visit our website to find out more: www.pvprogram.org

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Westside Baby, a PVs Reflection

                                                                                          by Kathy Koller

What a beautiful city Seattle is and a great place to serve!  The PV Volunteers spent each day doing something different but I chose to reflect on our time at Westside Baby.  So today we’re off to recycle infant car seats, more about this later and what exactly that means. Since arriving in Seattle we’ve been introduced to a way of living that all states should take note.  Everything possible is recycled. And you better learn quickly what specific “can” things go in – trash, recycle, compostable.

Upon our arrival at Westside Baby we were given a tour of this large facility. The organization of anything needed for babies and toddlers is incredible. There are rows, rows, and more rows of neatly packed and labeled totes.  There is the clothing area, the diaper area, the toy area, the car seat area, the book area, the area for high chairs, walkers, etc.  You get the idea.

A thorough explanation of how these items are dispensed to families in need was given and also the sophisticated system where social agency workers can place an order online for clients and their needs.  Orders are filled and placed on shelves for pickup within a week. 

And of course, we also saw the mounds of gently-used clothing that needed to be sorted and put away.  The car seat, toy and accessory area was fascinating.  Any donated item is cross checked in volumes of catalogs to make sure the item has not been recalled.  Every car seat is put through a rigorous safety check as well, a time-consuming process for volunteers.   It was explained that Westside Baby accepts all car seats and then weeds out unsafe or outdated seats.  A car seat is automatically put in the car seat graveyard if it is older than six years.

From here car seats are either cleaned and put on the shelves, with an instruction manual, or stacked outside to be dismantled for recycling.  Here is where the PV Volunteer work day began.  The car seats needed to be torn down so all metal and plastic are separated.  PV Volunteers spent the better part of the day, with the assistance of Gary, doing this.  In a short time we all became adept at using the tools provided.  We picked a great day for this outside work site, sunny and warm (not the Seattle rain we expected) and there was much cheering as the last car seat was tossed on top of the pile of scrap plastic.

Last year 22,000 clients were served by Westside Baby. What a successful operation!  The need is so great.  And this only works because of the generosity of the local folks who bring donations and also the many volunteers who pour over those donations to get them ready for clients.  There is even a retired librarian who organizes the book area.  An age-appropriate book is included in every order placed.

When we left Westside Baby, the huge mountain of car seats in the graveyard was our reward of a job well done.  And reflecting upon the clients of Westside Baby, I could easily  picture the beautiful face of an infant snuggled in a blanket or safely secured in a car seat, all provided by Westside Baby.  What a perfect way to end our service week in Seattle!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Seattle Reflection, Part 2

I was very excited for the opportunity to go out Seattle to volunteer as a PV. As some of you know I invite my nieces and nephews to go out to WV. This time I took my niece Julie for the first time. We both had a
wonderful experience. It was nice working with PVers from the past as well as working with long time PVers for the first time. Jill was a great leader as well as a great hostess.I also met her extended family who were also very hospitable. The people we worked with were very generous to make sure our time there was as comfortable and informative as possible.   It was a great week to recharge that direct line to Christ!  I want to thank all who help make this possible.
"A volunteer for Christ"
Leo Lutz~~~

Monday, May 13, 2013

Our Lady of Guatalupe in West Seattle, who graciously hosted the PVs for the Seattle trip, included the PVs as a "Stewardship Sighting":

They were here for just a week but what a week it will be.  Sleeping in our parish center “stage area” in sleeping bags, they spent their days doing service projects throughout the greater Seattle area.  One of their projects was building the raised beds (12) in our Giving Garden.  They have come from different parts of the country – Minnesota, New York, etc. – and are meeting for the first time.  We know them simply as the “PV Volunteers.”  This week of service, prayer, and reflection is a gift to us and the larger community.  It is a stewardship sighting.

Reflection from Seattle

Nickelsville, WA.
My name is Phillip, I am 25 years old and I have lived in Nickelsville, a tent city for the homeless, for about two years. Nickelsville contains about 120 tents and houses about 160 people who are also homeless. We all live on a piece of land that is about 100 yards long and 30 yards wide. The city government doesn’t recognize that we exist but they allow us to camp here, at least for now, until at some point local politics  dictate that we leave. There are four other tent cities in Seattle but all of those are recognized by the city. They are required to move locations every 90 days- at least in Nickelsville we get to stay put for the time being. The politics are crazy but they impact all of the homeless in Seattle.

Here is my story:
I came to Seattle from San Francisco. I had a job there as a carpenter but I left because I was making just enough to pay my rent and keep some food on the table. I heard that there were better paying jobs in Seattle so I came here to improve my life. When I first got to Seattle I was able to get a job that paid a little more than what I was previously making in California but after two months the company I worked for went out of business. I got some part time work but I couldn’t pay my rent any longer so I was force to live in my car. One day I was out looking for work and someone broke into my car and stole all of my tools. Shortly after that, my car broke down and was impounded. At that point I was out of money, had no job and no place to live. I lived under bridges for a couple of months until I heard about Nickelsville. The first thing I heard is that it is a safe place to live. I had been attacked a couple of times while I was living on the streets so the safety issue was what drew me to Nickelsville.

The good thing about living here is that everyone is given a job to do around camp and the rules of the camp are enforced. If you break the rules you can be expelled. People do look out after one another here so it is a fairly safe place to live. Because the city doesn’t recognize that we exist, the police will not come onto the property unless a crime is reported and that causes problems occasionally when someone needs to be expelled but hasn’t committed a crime. There are a lot of disadvantages to living here: there is a huge problem with rats, they are everywhere. The land we live on is filled swamp land so every time it rains, we flood. We have tried to resolve the flooding by putting the platforms that are the base for the tents on cinderblocks to raise the tents about two feet off the ground. That is not high enough all of the time however. We also put down donated wood chips throughout the camp to absorb the water on the ground but when it is wet outside everything in the tent gets wet also and stays wet for days.  There is no running water and no electricity. There are four jiffy-johns to serve the entire community. Food is generally donated by the local food banks in town but the only cooking facilities are a few gas grills.  Because there is no electric, it is cold in the winter and hot in the summer and there is no place to escape the flies or the smell.

I am homeless through no fault of my own. I don’t drink and I don’t do drugs. I have been trying to get a job but I don’t have a phone number that someone could call to offer me a job. I have no place to shower on a regular basis so I do not present well when talking to a prospective employer. I seem to be trapped with no way out. I have seen others here just resign themselves to being homeless – I don’t want to do that but how do I get out?


Phillip is a fictional character but his story is similar to a lot of the people that live in Nickelsville and other similar places that you might find in any big city in this country. We have all see poverty in West Virginia but urban poverty has an entirely different look.

Let us all take a minute to pray for all of the homeless people who will sleep in tents or under bridges tonight. Lord, hear our prayer.

Friday, May 10, 2013

More Seattle Pictures

As volunteers are returning home, we are receiving their pictures and wanted to share with you! Also, in the next few weeks, keep an eye out for reflections written by the PVs who were in Seattle..

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Final Day in Seattle

The morning started like every other one this week with plenty of sunshine. After breakfast we headed to work at Westside Baby. Westside Baby is an organizations that provides all things baby related to the community. It is quite an impressive organization. Our task for the day was to dismantle car seats that could not be distributed again, that the different parts could be recycled and not fill up the landfill. Each car seat offered its own unique challenge to take apart. The mountain of plastic by the end of the day was reminiscent of Mt. Rainer!

After we left Westside Baby we made a stop at the Ballard Locks. Our arrival coincided perfectly with a load of boats heading through, so we got to see the whole process of how the locks work. Unfortunately there were no fish in the fish ladder underneath the locks. After the tour of the locks, we found a nice sunny spot in the garden and had our closing prayer service, reflecting on the experiences of the week.

We finished up the week up in Edmonds for the Seattle "Live with Passion" Potluck and Pickle Ball. (There will be more about this and pictures on the LWP Blog in the days to come.) It was a fun evening bringing together the PVs and there Seattle area Supporters.

We could not be happier with how the week went. Thank you to every agency that we worked with, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, and most importantly to the PVs who took the leap of faith and joined us for the week. We will be posting the volunteer's reflections from the week in the days to come.