Did you just make oatmeal all day? A Quaker’s Path to Bridging and Beyond…

06/05/2019 by arcstone

Guest blog by Eli Phillips, Quaker Voluntary Service Fellow

“What are you most looking forward to about Quaker camp?” asked Jody, our longtime family friend. “Leaving,” I replied without missing a beat.

I was eleven and we were at Camden Yards enjoying a great atmosphere… most likely coupled with a loss by the Orioles. I was somehow less than unenthusiastic about attending a sleepaway camp, but that camp would change my life in a way that I couldn’t see at the time. That summer camp experience brought me to where I am today: almost a year spent in service as a member of the Bridging team.

In many ways I have never left summer camp. I returned every possible summer as a camper, went back as a counselor, and was a member of the administration staff. My experiences and connections at camp led me to Guilford College, a Quaker institution. Upon graduating in May 2018 I was selected to serve in the Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS). Through a strange twist, my city placement would be Minneapolis and my site placement was to be Bridging.

What is QVS?

Their website says it best, and more information can be found here:“[QVS]  is an eleven month experiment at the intersection of transformational spirituality and activism.”

As a member of the Quaker Voluntary Service, I moved to a city I had never been to, I lived in a house and formed a community with other young people from different backgrounds and walks of life, and I served people who are transitioning out of homelessness and poverty. That’s it in a nutshell, but it has been so much more than that.

The Bridging Experience

It’s a bit difficult to remember my first day at Bridging. It was pouring so I took the bus, leaving our South Minneapolis service house before 6:15 a.m. to arrive by my scheduled 8 a.m. start in Roseville. A coworker offered to drive me home that day. He didn’t live anywhere near me so we compromised and he dropped me off at the Rosedale Center bus station. A few weeks later one of my supervisors picked me up on a rainy morning for a 7:30 a.m. staff meeting. Moments like these have been common in my nine months here. People that care about Bridging do their best to take care of each other–clients, volunteers, staff, and donors. Such a passionate and caring environment has encouraged me to thrive.

My responsibilities have consistently increased throughout the year as I lead groups of volunteers, load trucks, deliver to clients, pick up donations, and work on a myriad of special projects. I have been fortunate enough to be a part of something so much bigger than I realized when I interviewed for this fellowship.

A Long Term Partnership Blooms

2018 was the first year for this new partnership between QVS and the Twin Cities. Thanks to the hard work of my cohort, QVS, and members of the local Quaker community, I am happy to say that this partnership will continue! I’m excited for whomever is selected to have a transformative experience with QVS and Bridging in the years to come.

Just as I can’t imagine my life without Opequon Quaker Camp, I now can’t picture life without QVS and Bridging. I have grown in countless ways this year–volunteering at Bridging and living in the experiment of community through QVS has been incredibly formative. I likely would not be in this position if I didn’t push my comfort zone and attend camp, even though I believed that the best aspect of it would be leaving.


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