Watering eyes not only from cutting onions

Never would I have thought that cutting up onions would be so rewarding. But it was yesterday at Dorothy’s Place.

I was part of “President Ochoa’s Investiture Day of Service and Learning”.

I didn’t feel like attending yet one more thing this week, but felt an obligation to go on behalf of AmeriCorps’ expectation that I would participate.

And I’m happy I did. It was the most perfectly planned day that I have ever experienced. Every detail was taken care of from a great breakfast for over 200 participants, to the lunch when we all returned from our various chosen posts.

CSUMB is known as a university that has a vibrant Service Learning Component and has even won awards for the good work it does in the community. President Ochoa requested a day like yesterday to bring awareness to service, but to also welcome him in as CSUMB’s third president.

This is what he asked for, and it didn’t disappoint him, as he told us in his lunchtime reflection-over-the day speech.

I chose Dorothy’s Place, which if you don’t know, is a place in Salinas’ tenderloin where two meals are served everyday for the homeless population.

Student leader Heather and six others, including CSUMB staff members and students and myself boarded a city bus that took us close to Dorothy’s Place where, as we walked there, we saw many homeless people huddled in blankets, sitting, lying down, walking around, waiting for lunch. Heather was a wonderful guide, with knowledge about Dorothy’s from her work as a liaison between students and the homeless population.

When we got inside the lunchroom it appeared that the cooks (all volunteers) didn’t expect us, as the regular cook wasn’t there. But we explained our mission and were put to work immediately.

I was surprised to see the head chef walk out from the kitchen to greet us. She is a friend: Nic Bianchi.

She has been recruited to fill in for a while and that began in August. Let me tell you about Nic. I know her as a fabulous cook and caterer. The folks eating from her table are lucky indeed. Nic could take a greasy rag and make a gourmet meal out of it.

So my job began by dicing parsley. Nic showed us how to do that. Now I can say I know how to do that from a professional. After parsley, I agreed to cut up onions, and it was necessary to go outside where the wind took care of our watering eyes. I peeled and cut onions along side a family. The mother told me they were there to teach their two children to appreciate what they have and to give to others. The two children did exactly as they were told and were delightful youngsters. Wonderful, teaching parents!!!

There were so many heartfelt comments about the experience, and as we completed our tasks and walked outside, we were greeted and told goodbye by some of the folks waiting for lunch.  Some shook our hands, some waved goodbye and many yelled, “thank you”.

It was a good day.








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