As we build a community of caring and sharing, a wide volunteer group consisted of faith-based volunteer efforts. This group builds into Feeding Laramie Valley’s reinstatement of service as a tool for engaging with solutions from community expertise and as a means for creating simple forms of lived experience.
For students, this understanding and application of service grew directly into their educations, creating foundations on which they could apply or analyze their university education. However, for faith-based volunteers, this service applied differently in terms of lived experience.
Feeding Laramie Valley made a priority of making these volunteer skills permanent in hopes of educating community members and creating a larger impact within the community. This impact took the form of giving lived-experience to volunteers when this kind of education became applicable to other areas of study and interest. Therefore, while students built on their university educations, faith-based volunteers built upon their studies in faith.
These skills are not simply how to build a fence or how to stain garden beds, these skills are how to engage with the community, how to learn from lived-expertise, and how to create one’s own experiences as applicable to food equality. But, most of all, these skills included how to share and care in meaningful and impactful ways.
A faith-based view builds into the idea of service as a tool for creating experience and providing connections between those with lived experience and those seeking to become a part of the solution. When interviewing volunteers, those with backgrounds in faith-based communities commonly pointed towards building a community past their individual congregations and emphasized the benefit of crossing these boundaries.
Lindsay Stewart is one such volunteer. Mrs. Stewart was abashed by the low turnout and felt that with a larger group there could have been more opportunity for discussing food equality and its connection to the work that was being performed.
Mrs. Stewart was able to speak with the Feeding Laramie Valley staff on site and find connections between the volunteer work and the goals of the organization, but this experience was reliant upon her own pursuit. When asked if she felt others were able to make this same connection, she stated, “I wish more people would have come and then maybe [Feeding Laramie Valley] would have talked to all of us” rather than herself and Katy having a great discussion alone.
Mrs. Stewart found power in the work she performed as a unifying event both at the time and for the future. Like other volunteers, Mrs. Stewart saw the power of the community garden as a place for caring and sharing community growth.
In particular, Mrs. Stewart pointed out that the community garden does not hoard its resources, nor does it create barriers. In conversation, she noted, “The garden is for everybody no matter their skill level”. Likewise, she noted that its location and construction emphasize that quality. The community garden is a place where all skill levels, all ages, and all backgrounds can work, care, and share together past the boundaries that unconsciously form.
In this way, the community garden has already begun its work in breaking boundaries, halting arguments for a time, and creating unity in old and new experiences that develop into lived expertise and community solutions. In this case, the solution that has brought all these volunteers together has been a combination of love for faith-based communities and love for the Laramie community at large.
The amazing progress that is made from such simple goals is found in the fact that it is not so simple. The struggle between lived experience and university expertise is one such challenge. Yet, it is overcome in settings of service and volunteer work.
As a result, Feeding Laramie Valley has found power in making service skills permanent, because when these skills are taken into the rest of a person’s life, they further develop this community of caring and sharing, of lived experiences as expertise, and of creating new lived expertise as people engage with and understand the problem and the solutions.
Faith-based volunteers have strengthened new perspectives of service and aided in Feeding Laramie Valley’s goal of growing a caring and sharing community through such projects as the community garden in Kiwanis Park. We would like to thank them for their service as well as all our dedicated and inspiring volunteers who are the foundation of our progress.