By Lauren Henderson
This summer, I completed my Girl Scout Gold Award. I have always had a passion for serving the homeless. As an underclassman, I went on multiple mission trips to serve the homeless. In New Orleans, I spent a week feeding the homeless and talking to them. Listening to how their lives used to be made me realize anyone can become homeless at any time. I felt compassion towards them and I was humbled after serving them.
When I got my license, I would try to help homeless people I drove by. Whether it was water or food or just a friend, I always feel compelled to help. One day I gave a man a sandwich from Starbucks. He said thank you and I began to walk away, but he stopped me. He asked my name and he said, “Lauren. I’m going to pray for you.” When he said this, I wasn’t sure how to respond. I was so shocked that this person with no home or food said he was going to pray for me. Shouldn’t I be the one praying for him?
My experiences helping the homeless inspired me to do my Gold Award focusing on the mental wellness of our homeless community in Tallahassee. I toured the newly built Kearney Center and noticed there wasn’t much artwork. The pieces they did have installed really gave the building color and warmth, and I wanted to add to this. I worked alongside Jacob Reiter, the director of the Kearney Center. Florida State University Professor Doctor Jill Pable was also an immense help with this project. She works in the Department of Interior Architecture and Design at FSU and always had insightful suggestions. She was a great asset because she had worked on the interior design of the Kearney Center.
We decided a great way to bring color to the Kearney Center while still trying to please every resident would be to install photos. I used some photos I took and I also worked with other local photographers to compile a set of women’s photos and men’s photos. There was a survey conducted to see what types of photos the residents would like to see, and I used these results to choose my photographs. After my pictures were approved, I hung a collage in the men’s gathering room and the shelter and two in the women’s gathering room.
These rooms are commonly used for therapy, and my hope is that these pieces will bring the residents peace and happiness. These photos are meant to provide a sense of home to the residents, because they are in a new place and they may feel like they don’t belong. Not having a space of your own can be very disempowering, and even small gestures such as photographs can go a long way in reducing stress felt by these people.
When I walked into the shelter with the photos, I had multiple residents ask me if I was donating them. When I said yes and showed them the collages, they smiled and were excited to see that someone thought of them. One man even asked me if he could have them for himself.
My hope is that looking at these photos will help residents to feel better than they felt before they came into the center.
Helping others allows us to grow and learn more about those that live in our community. These people are deserving of love and compassion, whether they have a home or not. I will never regret stopping to help someone, but I will always regret when I don’t.
If you’d like to help our homeless community, the Kearney Center is always accepting donations of time, supplies, and money. Items such as backpacks, art supplies, laundry detergent, shaving cream, are always needed.