Vincent Alexander ’24 — Crooked Creek Food Pantry (CCFP) was an amazing experience. It gave me an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, begin new and wonderful relationships, and create meaningful change; I left the internship having learned tenfold what I had expected. From the daily operation of the pantry, to the many van-trips the interns and I took, I loved and appreciated the entire experience.
Beginning with the running of the pantry as well as the volunteers and interns, I had no idea what I was in store for. I began the internship barely knowing Camden Cooper and vaguely knowing Jerry Little. This would soon change majorly. Camden, Jerry, and I went from awkwardly talking each other, that to avoid silence, to creating endless inside jokes and genuine ebullience at each other’s arrival every day. We now have dozens of memories that include cooking steak for the whole pantry to prove superior cooking ability over Mari, (volunteer who had worked at a restaurant) to “racing” each and every day to the pantry in an attempt to be first, to hundreds of cans falling on us after a faulty wheel on a cart broke. To lastly frame how much different my relationship with the interns is now versus May: Jerry and I went from rarely speaking to each other in freshmen tutorial to texting each other which books we should read next. All in all, I have gained two phenomenal people that I can call friends. The volunteers/managers did a great job at making the internship that much more enjoyable. For example, Mari was a woman from the Dominican Republic that worked as a chef for a 2 Michelin starred restaurant as well as she spoke Russian, Spanish, English, and a little bit of French. She would take an hour – two hours every other day to help me learn Spanish so that I could better interact with our clientele; She recommended me apps that make Spanish most easily learnable and countless podcasts I could listen to while working at Lowes to keep the learning going. The interns and I would cook for the whole pantry in an attempt to get the most compliments from volunteers, so we could know who the better cook was (This was a lot of fun). The volunteers also taught me through their stories, like an older man that came in every Wednesday whose name was Bob. His intellect was so great that during his junior year of high school, he got an offer from IU’s law school to attend the university fully for free. He then began feeling nauseous weeks later and went to the doctor to find out he had contracted a rare disease from a mosquito that would slowly eat away at the plasticity of his brain in an almost identical way that Alzheimer’s does. Because of this unforeseen illness, he ended up not being able to participate in his scholarship and his career was flipped entirely. Stories like this were hard to hear, but when being told this, Bob was not saddened or cynical, instead he was happy that him and his wife, Barb, could give to the needy. This resonated with me and allowed me to look inside myself to when I act with sloth or ungratefulness, to re-think those feelings as I am beyond blessed and I should fully appreciate what I have. The volunteers, in my perception, provided me with the good and the bad (both great in the long run), with good being the smiles, laughs, and memories and the bad being the hard lessons and lifestyles I was not cognizant of that made me re-think things going on in my life and my attitude towards them.
The clientele was the best part of the internship. I wish I could put how I feel about this part of the internship into better words, but I cannot, the feelings given to me from the distribution of food to the clientele cannot be articulated; any attempt would be in vain. On Monday and Tuesday, we sorted donations and picked up food from food banks, then Wednesday through Friday, the food was given away. The days we gave away food was eye-opening and joy-filling. There was no better feeling than seeing the face of someone in need light up as we help make their ends meet and their life hindrances eased, even if just a little. The clientele we had was ever changing; we had an extremely diverse range of people needing food. From regular joes to people fresh off the boat of Haiti who only spoked Haitian Creole. We can only imagine how hard it was for these people to make a living for themselves as they suffered a language block and did not have an American Citizenship. All this in mind, it was comforting knowing we could provide nutritional assistance to these people’s lives. It provided me with an overwhelming feeling of humbleness and created an eagerness in me to help as much as I could. I had never truly seen this side of poverty as I grew up in a loving and stable environment that somewhat sheltered me from knowing how others less fortunate lived. The clientele, although unknowingly, taught me lessons of generosity, appreciation, and humbleness; for that I am forever grateful.
The global health initiative, provided to me through Wabash, has eternally changed the man I had thought I was. Never did I think that eight weeks could provide me with such change and self-reflecting. Countless lessons were engrained in me and amazing people I have gained as friends, all through the Crooked Creek Food Pantry. I would like to take this time to thank Jill Rogers, Steve Claffey and everyone involved in the GHI for changing how I see things. This initiative has bettered me far more than it will ever know.