Originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of the Open Connections Magazine.
Written by OC Parent, Meghan Pizzica.
Thank you to everyone who lent a hand and supported our Day of Service on Monday, January 18, 2021. More than a dozen OC families came together in memory of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to serve our Open Connections community and our neighbors in need. It was an amazing day of doing good for others!
This year, we served our OC campus and community, The Life Center Shelter of Eastern Delaware County, Making a Change Group of Chester, The West Chester Food Cupboard, and the Episcopal Community Services/St. Barnabas Mission in Philadelphia.
OC youth and their families packed personal care packages for sheltered men and women, toy packages for unhoused children, and game packages for families in need. We also participated in a Peanut Butter and Jelly and Brownie Brigade in which youth made sandwiches and sweet treats to accompany our care packages for the shelters. Youth and parents wrote notes to accompany the care packages, sharing the thought that hope lives in all places. There were a few brownies left over to sweeten our day, too.
A Group Tutorial I youth expressed the wish of combining our efforts and making a sizable donation to a local food bank. Many OC families supported his wish by bringing nonperishable food items and personal goods to campus. Brendan and his family then delivered our donations to the West Chester Food Cupboard.
People were invited to write notes of appreciation to the men and women who cleaned up our nation’s capitol after the January 6th disruption. We sent our gratitude for their energy and dedication to our national government buildings.
We served our campus by cleaning up the OC property. Winter winds have carried and deposited litter that nestled among our trees and brush. Young people and their families extracted these pieces of plastic and paper and appropriately disposed of them. Campus is definitely looking neater!
One family suggested we build a Social Justice Lending Library on campus. Several youth found an old bookshelf in the attic that would make a perfect library. They gave the shelf new life by sanding and staining it. One young person compiled a list of all of the donated books and categorized them. The new book collection includes picture books and stories for young readers with BIPOC main characters, African-American literature for teens and adults, biographies or histories of accomplished Black and Brown people, and non-fiction books about racial and social justice and combating racism. This lending library will live in the Parent Library, and, in the short term, will be brought outside when we are on campus for community events. POC and Social Justice book donations are ongoing and always welcome.
Providing space and support for families and youth to create a self-directed life is at the heart of what defines Open Connections. This Day of Service, which was spontaneously initiated, developed, and realized by OC families over the course of just a few days, demonstrates OC’s philosophy centered on self-direction. We inclusively sought to seek out and support each person’s wishes for the day and created space for all ideas. The freedom to share, create, and implement possibilities is alive and well at Open Connections!