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October 29th, 2015

3pm-7pm

This Thursday evening, I spent four hours at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries soup
kitchen on Third Street in Detroit. This nonprofit Christian organizations focus is providing
lunch and dinner for people who cannot afford to feed themselves or their families. Founded over
one hundred years ago in 1909, the DRMM began as a homeless shelter that provided church
services and food for people in need. Today, the organization has expanded to fourteen locations
within Detroit and the Detroit area, offering shelter, food, and drug rehabilitation programs. They
proudly declare their main goal to be aiding the disheartened people in the community and
helping them look towards the future. My role as a volunteer was to help in some food
preparation, making up the plates of dinner, and then serving the plates to the people coming in.
Upon first walking up to the small building, the first thing I noticed was the large sign in the
shape of a bible that protruded out from above the door. In bold print, it said CHRIST DIED
FOR OUR SINS. I am not a very religious person, so this caught me off guard a bit. I knew the
DRMM was a Christian organization, but as I knocked on the large metal door, I found myself
wondering why they chose that particular saying. As I thought more about it, it occurred to me
that it was possibly put there as a reminder of love. To put forth the idea that no matter ones
current life situation, they are loved unconditionally, and they space they are about to enter is a
safe space. I wondered if this was annoying to the people that needed the services of the DRMM,
or if it comforted them. Since religion is an institution, it integrates people and brings them
together. I was hoping that this was the case for the homeless people as well as the workers in the
DRMM.

As I was signing in, the staff seemed elated that I was volunteering. Many of them told me
multiple times that they were so glad I was going to be helping out and thanked me continuously.
Because of their genuine gratitude, I began to wonder if they didnt receive as many volunteers
as they would like to. However, as I entered the kitchen, I realized that I was very wrong. There
were two chefs, a supervisor, and 5 other volunteers besides myself. I observed that all of the
people volunteering were women, which I intended to inquire about.
All of them were smiling and seemed to be in a good mood; the consciousness that we were
going to be helping people in need seemed to set a mood of positivity in the kitchen. The
supervisor was a black man named Charlie, who shook my hand and told me to put on an apron,
gloves, and a hairnet. I would be handling and serving food.
Dinner that night was to be spaghetti, beef stew, broccoli and cheese, bread rolls, and
doughnuts for dessert. In preparation, my job was to open the bags of bread, break apart the rolls,
and stack them in a tub to make them more accessible. As I did this, the other volunteers kept
busy by un-canning the broccoli, adding meat to the spaghetti sauce, filling up the fork
containers, and such things like that. While we worked, we made polite conversation; I asked
them if they had volunteered there before, and they all had. They were all recruiters from
Quicken Loans, and had to have a certain number of volunteer hours in the community. This
information helped me make sense of why they were all women; their jobs as recruiters of
Quicken Loans are an example of typical womens jobs in the institution of gender.
Soon it was 4:45, and time to begin serving the first round of dinner. It was called first
round, I was told, because each night there were two rounds of dinner served. The first was
reserved for the people who live in the area within a certain radius. These people got first dibs at
the food being served and were typically regular attendees. The second round was dinner for the
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people who lived out of town or not nearby. They were to get the leftovers from the first round
dinner and when that was gone, they got whatever else there was in the kitchen. The second
round of dinner was usually not as good as the first.
We were each positioned in a line behind the large serving window with a pan of food in front
of us. We were set up like a relay race, where each person put a spoonful of food onto the plate
and passed it to the next person down the line. I was the last person in line, and it was my
responsibility to put a roll of bread onto the already full plate. The recipients of the dinners were
going to sit down at one of the three tables in the cafeteria, and it was the job of two other
volunteers to be waitresses and bring the plates to them. It seemed to be a very organized
system.
Charlie opened the metal door of the serving window, and cold air rushed into the kitchen. I
had forgotten that tonight was supposed to be the first time the temperature was going to drop
below freezing this season. The sun was setting and it was getting colder, and as I looked out of
the cafeteria window, I noticed that there was an extremely long line of people waiting to get
inside. Despite the bitter weather conditions, they were only letting one person in at a time.
We began making the plates, slopping the food on (spaghetti, broccoli and cheese, salad, and
then bread) as the men and women filed in, signing their names on a sheet of paper and taking
their seats. I was surprised how rapidly this process went, and I continuously had to quicken my
pace. There were hungry people out there that needed to eat, however, and they were coming in
faster than the plates were going out.
I watched as I served, and noticed the kinds of people coming in. Most of them were older
black men, but there were a few older black women and a handful of middle-aged white men.

Many of them looked defeated and unwell; either sickly looking, limping, or in wheel chairs.
They did not appear to be fit for work, which would naturally make it difficult for them to find
employment. Without a job, how could they afford a home, or even food? In a system where
disabled people cannot work, they become homeless. This was the reason they could not afford
to feed themselves and had to come to the soup kitchen either once or twice a day in order to eat.
As I was contemplating all of this, my thoughts were interrupted by an explosive voice.
I NEED SALT! an older woman sitting at the first table was screaming at the top of her
lungs.
The volunteer waitresses assured her that they would find some for her once everyone had
been seated and given a plate, but this did not calm the woman one bit. She angrily threw up her
hands and pushed her plate away from her.
I AINT EATIN THIS TIL I GOT SALT! she yelled.
The other volunteers and I looked at each other, obviously all very uncomfortable. The reason
we were uncomfortable? This screaming woman was violating a folkway. Since folkways are
norms that represent behavioral expectations, it is fair to say that the woman was in violation
by not behaving properly in a social situation. We typically do not expect people to cause a scene
in public, and yelling at the dinner table is unacceptable in our society. Since most of us are not
used to experiencing this, it is part of the reason it made us all so uncomfortable. Causing a scene
is not a proper way to conduct oneself, but is not means to get kicked out or punished, so once
everyone had a plate in front of them, the woman was given her salt.
Everyone was in and out of the cold, and all of the seats were filled. One of the cooks left the
kitchen, and I watched as he went along the tables, talking to people, patting them on the back
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and interacting with the homeless people of the community. One man in a ripped jacket and
plastic bags filled with belongings approached the cook. He embraced him in a hug, and when
they pulled apart, they locked their pinky fingers together rather than shaking hands. They
laughed and went their separate ways, but their brief encounter did not go unnoticed by me.
Their pinky-locking was an example of a symbol, as it obviously carried significant meaning
between the two of them and was the way they communicated. It meant something to them,
but might mean something different or nothing at all to other people. Symbols are a very
important aspect of nonmaterial culture, and that act of symbolism is evidence that every person
capable of any amount of communication is part of a culture.
Since I did not recognize the symbolic meaning of the pinky-locking, I experienced an
extremely small amount of culture shock. I was confused and very curious what its connotation
was, but since I was uninvolved in the encounter, I did not have to respond and therefore did not
experience complete culture shock.
In the time it took for me to witness all of this, the first round of dinner was over. The man in
charge of letting people in was also in charge of getting them out, and began telling people that
they needed to leave. The thought of making these people without homes go back out into the
cold night was harsh, but there was going to be another influx of people coming in. It was only
about 5:15, and the second round of dinner was going to begin around 6:00. Almost everyone
was gone when a small man wearing shorts rushed into the cafeteria. He sat down, and I was told
to go hand him a plate. When I placed it in front of him, he looked at me and smiled.
Thank you so much! Im glad I made it, I was at work, he explained.

I told him that I was glad he made it as well, and went back into the kitchen. The other
volunteers told me that he was the only person allowed in late, because he had a job a few miles
away and had to come right from there. Though I was happy the administration made an
exception for him, it made me think about the possibility of other people in his position. How
many people had to make the decision to either work or eat? How many people had to take the
food from the soup kitchen back to their families and therefore could not work? The man with
the job was experiencing spatial mismatch. He lives far away from the jobs available in his
skill set, which is why he is late to the meals the DRMM provides. He is able to make it
possible because he has a deal with the organization, but so many other people do not. These
unfortunate others have to make the decision to eat, rather than go a great distance looking for a
job they are capable of.
The man with the job finished his food quickly, thanked us again, and left. Charlie shut the
metal doors to the window.
We hadnt served all of the food to the first group, so there was some left for the second
round. Since there wouldnt be enough for everyone, the cooks began preparing a beef stew for
backup. The other volunteers and I cleaned off the counters and restocked the utensils, and then
waited for the next round.
It was 6:00 and time to open the doors. Charlie opened the window again, and it was the same
deal as the first time; we filled the plates, and then the plates got put on the tables. No one in this
round made a scene, and the group overall was much quieter and kept to themselves more. I
thought this might be because they were from out of town. They finished up quickly and left. We
put everything away, and then it was time for all of us to go home.

Good job today! Thank you so much for your help! I was told as I left. I had never
experienced anything like that, but decided I would gladly go back the next day to serve lunch.

October 30th, 2015


10:30am-1:30pm

On Friday morning, I went back to the DRMM soup kitchen. This time I would be
participating in serving lunch, which I had been told was not very different than serving dinner.
Knowing what to expect this time, I went into the kitchen and suited up in my hairnet, gloves and
apron. The other volunteers were another group of Quicken Loans women and a girl my age
named Tatiana. Tatiana also attends Wayne State and is in the honors college with the
requirement to get involved in the community. She had been involved volunteering with the
DRMM for the past few months, so she had quite a bit of experience helping the homeless.
Unlike dinner, there was only one round of lunch, and this was for the people who lived in the
area. The lunch menu consisted of ham and pineapple, chicken, potatoes, peas, and bread rolls.
This seemed like a lot of food for one meal, but I didnt give it much thought. I got to work
organizing the bread rolls again, while the other volunteers un-canned things and stocked the
forks. I felt as if I was having a moment of Dj vu, as this was almost the exact routine I had
gone through the previous night. When all the preparation was done, I mentioned to Tatiana how
monotonous it was volunteering here. She shook her head, disagreeing.
The preparation is usually the same, but every day is a completely different experience. The
groups of people that we serve are always different, and new volunteers come in all the time,
she explained.
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I had definitely spoken too soon. One of cooks, a man named George, told us that we were
going to have the patrons of the soup kitchen stand in a line and come up to the counter to get
their own plates, rather than having their plates delivered to them. The metal sliding door to the
serving window was opened, and we began making the plates as the line formed. I was second in
the relay line, and my job was putting one scoop of cheesy potatoes onto the plate.
Everyone who came up to the window smiled and thanked all of us individually. I was
thanked not just for making their plates of food, but for smiling as I did it.
Thank you for that wonderful smile, maam! Not too many people smile my way, I was told
by one man.
I began thinking about the stereotypes associated with the people that need to attend soup
kitchens. In our society, they are thought of as homeless, lazy, drug addicts, uneducated and
these are the reasons that people had negative reactions towards this man. This legitimizing
ideology is called meritocracy, or the idea that ones position in the system is a direct
reflection of how hard they worked. People at the bottom of the system are assumed to not
have worked hard at all, and that is why they are in their current position. Since society believes
that the poverty-stricken earned their role through laziness, it makes it that much easier to
become comfortable with class inequities.
Soon after that man received his plate, a middle-aged black woman and an elderly black
woman came to the window together (possibly a mother and daughter?). They looked skeptically
down at the food and then looked at Tatiana who was serving the ham.
We cant eat ham do you have anything else? the older woman asked hopefully.

It then occurred to me what the chicken was for. It was prepared as an alternate meal for those
people who could not eat ham due to religious reasons. Many religions have dietary restrictions,
especially with meat. It was against these womens beliefs to eat ham, and they stuck to
those beliefs, even when faced with hunger. I was very happy that the DRMM was so
accommodating to the religious beliefs of the members of the community, though they are a
strictly Christian organization. The women were given chicken in place of ham, and were able to
eat without compromising their beliefs.
The next person in line was a younger black woman. At her heels were two young children,
girls probably no more than six years old. She carefully balanced three plates in her hands, and
cautiously made her way to the table. I hadnt yet seen any children at the soup kitchen, so it
hadnt occurred to me that the people who came here might have to worry about feeding
themselves as well as children. As I continued to serve, I watched this little family eat their
lunch. The mother pulled a Tupperware container out of her bag, and showed her children how to
put the uneaten food into it in order to save it for later. This made me wonder if anyone had
taught her when she was younger to bring containers in order to save the food from the soup
kitchen. I considered the stratification system, and how peoples positions in that system
endure through generations of families. Impoverished people have children who will most
likely also grow up to be impoverished because the stratification system makes it nearly
impossible to make a drastic class shift. With the way our system works, one typically remains
in the class that they were born into, with little chance of getting out of it.
Because of this system, the womans children would most likely be in the same place twenty
years from now. With little access to good education in the area, as well as spatial and skills
mismatch that can potentially occur later in their lives, these children are at a tremendous
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disadvantage. Pairing that with the fact that these children were not just girls, but African
American as well only adds to the obstacles these kids will have to face. In a society that values
men over women and where the white race controls most of the power, the womans daughters
already have three strikes against them, solely based on their ascribed statuses. Race, gender,
and class are given at birth and automatically decide ones position in society. Though it is
unfortunate, these positions also ascribe roles that create severe inequalities, which only continue
the cycle of the stratification system.
This realization was heartbreaking and distracted me for the rest of my serving. Soon
everyone was shuffling out, and it was time for us to begin cleaning up. On my way out to my
car (which was a birthday gift from my grandfather), I couldnt help but feeling a little guilty.
How did I get so lucky while there were hungry kids not ten miles away from my house?

November 12th, 2014


10:00am-2:00pm

By my fifth time volunteering at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries Soup Kitchen, I felt
like an old pro. I walked in and knew exactly what was expected of me. How to help, where to
stand as to not be in the way, and most of the staff knew me by name. I was becoming very
comfortable spending a few hours on Thursdays and Fridays here, and was actually enjoying this
experience. It was no longer just something I had to do for class, it was part of my weekly
routine.
Tatiana was there again (she was my favorite person to volunteer with and becoming a good
friend), and the two of us talked as we cut up chicken. As we were busy doing this, a group of
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four people burst into the kitchen, giggling and smiling widely.The leader was a jolly woman
who introduced herself as Debbie, and then introduced the rest of the group; her daughter, who
was a twenty-something woman named Kelly, a middle aged man named Frank, and another
middle aged woman named Sue. They explained that they had to volunteer for work, and that
this was their first time.
Thank you all so much for coming down. Its wonderful to have you, George said, passing
out hairnets.
Debbie was positively glowing as she put her hairnet on. I wondered why she was so elated;
did she not realize that there was a possibility of interacting with people undergoing extremely
difficult times in their lives? I did not have to wonder for long.
Oh I just LOVE that were doing this. I feel so good! These people NEED us and, well, here
we are! Debbie beamed as she tied on her apron.
We could have spent our Thursday doing anything, and were feeding the needy, Frank said,
agreeing with Debbie and hugging her.
I couldnt help thinking that these people were here on an ego trip; more concerned with the
fact that they held the titles of soup kitchen volunteers rather than taking into account that what
they were doing was only a minor help to an enormous public issue. I began thinking about the
last step in Cooleys Looking-Glass self, and the idea that we evaluate ourselves based on
the way we imagine others to judge us. The goal is to get a positive self reflection. This
group of volunteers considers volunteering their time at a soup kitchen as a wonderful thing.
When George thanked them for coming, it was affirmed in their minds that they truly were doing

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something great. They each were proud of themselves and each other. Then, they were able to
perceive themselves as kind, selfless, goodhearted people.
As Debbie and Steve went on to discuss how much they had donated in their lives, Tatiana and
I continued doing what we could to prepare the lunch of chicken, mixed veggies, rice and beans,
salad, and bread rolls. It was soon 12:00 and time to begin serving the meal. We were going to be
doing the waitress system again, where the plates were made and served to the patrons at the
tables. The man at the door began letting people in, and the window to the kitchen opened. This
time I was given the waitress position, so I was on the other side of the window waiting to take
plates with Debbie.
As the lunches were made, I took one plate in each hand and walked them to the first people
seated at the first table. Debbie was behind me, and I heard her saying God bless you and
bless you poor souls to the people as she gave them their lunches. I couldnt believe it! She had
actually called them poor souls to their faces. I wondered about the Thomas Theorem, where
when perceiving something as real, it is real in its consequences. Being branded with a
negative label like poor soul can cause people to actually think of themselves in that negative
way; they will embody it. How often were the patrons of the soup kitchen referred to as poor
souls? Did it break their spirit and harm their self-concept?
On my way back to retrieve more plates, a man in a nice dress shirt stopped me and asked me
if he was supposed to sit down in order to eat. He explained that he had recently lost his job and
that this was his first time eating at the soup kitchen. I nodded, pointed him in the direction of the
nearest open seat and told him that I would bring him a plate.
When I returned with his lunch, the man was sitting next to a younger man in a ripped t-shirt.

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Dont eat the rice. Its kinda nasty. And bring a bag next time if you want to take anything
home with you, the younger man was explaining.
The man who had recently lost his job was experiencing developmental socialization. This
is the socialization process of learning a role while on the job. The man was a new soup
kitchen attendee and was being integrated into the culture by learning the skills to become
proficient at feeding himself in this previously unfamiliar way. I wondered what other new skills
the man could learn from the people around him.
This lunch was a hectic one; significantly larger than any I had seen before, and the three
tables were filled and emptied many times with cycles of new people. They had to eat very fast
in order to make room for the people waiting in line outside, and many didnt even have time to
finish their meal before being ushered out. We ran out of chicken after the first cycle and had to
give everyone else soggy corn dogs. This seemed unfair to me, but as I thought about it, I
realized that something like this is on a first-come-first-serve basis, not unlike in nature. We ran
out of corndogs before everyone was fed, and had to close the doors.
While cleaning up, Debby and her daughter Kelly told each other how proud of one another
they were. Though their egos were irritating, I was genuinely happy for them and glad that they
were getting a good family experience out of volunteering.
As we were getting our coats on, the other woman in their group, Sue, gasped.
I just realized that were in Detroit! I dont feel comfortable walking to my car alone she
said. She mumbled something about not wanting to get killed and decided she would ask Charlie,
a man, to walk her to her car.

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This reminded me of the Culture of Fear article that we read, because our society revolves
around unfounded fears. We are very distracted by things that we have a very low chance of
being subjected to, such as being stabbed or raped walking to our cars in broad daylight in
the city. We are so concerned about these things that we neglect the things that we should fear,
like poverty. These unfounded fears are so prevalent in our society that it is difficult to convince
people that they do not need to be afraid, however, Charlie was happy to walk Sue to her car.

November 13th, 2015


10:30am-1:30 pm

Friday morning, I did not go to the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries soup kitchen, but rather
the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries Genesis House. This location is strictly a women-only
house, and acts as a shelter that offers drug rehabilitation programs. I was going to be working in
the kitchen helping prepare lunch for the women who live in the house, which would be similar
to working in the soup kitchen.
When I arrived, I was introduced to Jerome, the cook and the supervisor of the site. He was
very busy and told me to quickly go into the basement freezer and get all of the cakes, cupcakes,
and bread that I could find and bring them up. He pointed in the direction of the stairs, and I
made my way to retrieve the goods. I hadnt noticed any other volunteers in the kitchen, so I
prepared myself to help out as much as possible.
I climbed down the stairs, and noticed that two other girls a little older than myself were
already getting food out of the freezer. Without stopping what they were doing, they introduced
themselves as Kelsey and Brittany and told me that they both lived in the Genesis House. It was

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their turn to help with lunch. I told them that I was a volunteer, and they handed me a box to put
the cakes in. As I did this, the two of them continued talking and laughing with one another, until
Brittany spilled a box of doughnuts onto the ground.
Brittany! You whore, look what you did! Kelsey laughed.
I was extremely caught off-guard hearing a girl refer to another girl as a whore. Though it was
clearly only in jest, it still made me think about the way women are devalued in our society
and how it is reinforced through language. Words like whore attack a womans sexuality
and are meant to belittle her, but it has become so commonly used that we do not consider the
actual intentions of the word in our language. Consequently, women use these words against
each other, and while it may not always have literal and serious intent, it continues the
inequalities between men and women in our culture.
I must have had a mortified look on my face, because right after she said, Kelsey immediately
explained herself.
Its okay if I call her that, shes my best friend. We met here, Kelsey clarified as she helped
Brittany clean up the doughnuts.
I realized that entering into this program had brought the two of them together in friendship. I
considered this a latent function, or unintended outcome of the Genesis House. The intent of
the house was to provide shelter, food, and drug rehabilitation for women; those were the main
goals. It also acted as a way to create strong friendships and relationships, as these women lived
together and had the opportunity to get to know one another. Though it was unintended, it was
still a positive outcome.

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The three of us grabbed our boxes and carried them up back up to the kitchen. I had just set
mine down when I was told by Jerome that he needed fifty slices of cake cut and put onto plates
for dessert. He showed me an example of the size I should cut, and I was shocked at how large I
was supposed to make them! The DRMM soup kitchen gave slices of cake one-fourth the size of
what the Genesis House did.
I was also surprised by the quality of the food. It did not come from aluminum tins that were
to be heated in the oven; Jerome was hard at work concocting a restaurant-quality meal of cheesy
potatoes, fried vegetables, chicken (breast, thigh, and wing), and French fries that he seasoned
himself. I wondered if they were able to provide this type of meal because they only had about
forty tenants, rather than hundreds of people to feed.
As we worked, I asked Kelsey about the Genesis house. She told me that many of the women
living there and receiving treatment had children who were also allowed to live at the house. The
DRMM did not want to separate mothers from their kids, which I thought was a good policy. The
children didnt have to be without their mothers, and probably acted as a way to get the women
motivated to change and provide better lives for their families.
It was time to begin serving lunch; we made the plates at the steel counter in the kitchen and
handed them to the line of women waiting at the door that separated the kitchen and dining area.
Brittany would ask each woman what kind of chicken she wanted, if they wanted extra French
fries, and also got cups of ranch dressing and barbeque sauce for them if they asked for it. This
was a lot less like a business and a lot more like a family event; everyone knew everyone elses
name and the entire ordeal felt very homey. This intimacy was a benefit of actually living in the
shelter rather than just attending for meals twice a day.

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When the women were finishing up their meals (they did not have to rush, as there was not
another group waiting to get in), I placed the tray of cakes on the counter in the dining area, and
everyone came up to get a piece. As I watched, I saw a little girl reaching for a piece of chocolate
cake with a bright pink rose on it. Just before she put her hands on it, a large older woman
pushed her out of the way and grabbed the piece! I was disgusted and thankfully was not the only
one who noticed. One of the other cooks told the large woman to give the little girl the cake and
that she wouldnt be allowed dessert that day for her behavior. Though it wasnt a serious crime,
it is completely unacceptable to push a child out of the way to get to something first. This woman
was moderately sanctioned, or punished for doing something so deplorable and was not
allowed to have the cake that she so desperately wanted.
After the cake incident, Kelsey and Brittany went to eat and Jerome and I were left with
cleanup. After taking out the garbage, washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, and wiping the
counters, I was free to go.
On my way out, I thought about my entire experience volunteering the past few weeks. I had
met people I would have otherwise never been exposed to, and through them, gained insight to
real poverty, homelessness, and everything that goes along with it. This was completely different
than just learning about it sitting in a classroom. Becoming involved brought me closer to the
reality of poverty that is faced by this communitys underprivileged every day, even though I was
only exposed to such a minor part of it.
Unfortunately, scooping food onto a plate and handing it to someone who needs it is not doing
anything to stop the source of the problem. Volunteering at a soup kitchen is not going to solve
the cycle of the stratification system, and only offers a temporary solution. I compare this to
the river analogy we discussed in class; we can continue to save people from drowning in the
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middle of the river, but how can we keep them from falling in? We need to consider targeting the
source by creating more accessible jobs. This is crucial, as the middle class is slowly
disappearing. Hopefully, as I go through life, I will be presented with volunteer opportunities that
offer less temporary solutions and more permanent solutions, such as helping people find jobs
and building homes.

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