Fostering a Community of Respect at the Center of Hope
It has been inspiring to witness the evolution of Center of Hope over the past two years, from the opening in 2019 to the support offered over these past few months as demand for food services increases.
Elliot Moore, the current intern at Center of Hope this semester, affirmed that the number of people coming to the center increases every year as temperatures drop. Particularly for members of Amish communities who farm their own food, encroaching winter conditions hinder food accessibility, and resources like the Center of Hope become more essential.
Moore was drawn to the Center of Hope through his involvement in the Archon Society, a service-based gender-inclusive Greek organization at Kenyon College. During his first year at Kenyon, the Archon Society led group volunteer opportunities at the Center of Hope. At that time, volunteers helped renovate the building, painting the walls and replacing the tile floors to prepare to serve the community. Moore’s interest in public policy fueled his curiosity about the Center of Hope’s mission and structure.
The Center of Hope aims to create a welcoming environment by keeping the space clean and organized, offering a wide variety of quality foods (including fresh fruits and vegetables), and treating visitors of the center with dignity by referring to them as customers. “Everything is about respecting the customers … keeping the place nice, having nice produce,” Moore explained. “There’s a lot of fresh vegetables and the organizer there tries to engage with people who are reaching out for help and food services as much as possible in a very caring way.”
Over this past year, the center has coped impressively with the immense challenges posed by the COVID pandemic, facing the repercussions of job loss, poverty, and food insecurity on a national scale. As the community continues to open up and gradually return to a state that more closely resembles the pre-pandemic era, customers are able to shop grocery-style at the Center of Hope, instead of just coming to pick up pre-packaged food. “There’s definitely a lot of people who have very specific needs, and maybe they’re picking up for their entire community or something like that, so I think that ability to have choice has been a big change in the center,” said Moore. The Center of Hope thrives in their ability to adapt to shifting needs. By fostering collaboration between customers, employees, students, and volunteers, Center of Hope is able to build a flexible and caring community.