Gettysburg Week 1: Keep on Scratchin’

The first time I volunteered for the Campus Kitchen, I got lost while searching for the building. A wrong turn here and there, and I had found myself in a vacant run-down parking lot with dilapidated buildings and garages. Two steps in a new direction and I felt far away from my pretty, pristine college campus. Where was I?! As I turned in all directions, I noticed that 100 feet away from me was Carlisle Street, with cars whizzing by and people bopping in and out of the Lincoln Diner. It was the same street I had walked down a million times, and it was immediately next to an area of town I had never seen before — or, at least, not bothered to look for …

This week was my first official week working at the Campus Kitchen, and It feels the same as that day I volunteered: I’ve began to pay closer attention to the things I didn’t have to before, and been surprised to find what was right under my nose the whole time. I’m not just talking about the big things — sorry to say, but no revelations on week one! But there certainly have been surprises and intrigues. All I had to do was look a little closer and scratch the surface a bit. Here are a few highlights:

* I went to the Gettysburg Senior Center and played rummy 500 with a woman named Francis. If you get a chance to talk with her, you’ll find that she’s smart as a whip and nice as pie 🙂

* I learned how to make banana ice cream. It’s easy: you slice and freeze bananas until solid, and then blend in a food processor until smooth. Maybe add some milk and peanut butter too. It came in handy when SCCAP delivered a big box of frozen bananas to the Kitchen. Just one of the many “survival recipes” that the former Program Coordinators and Heston Interns for CK left behind for us newbies. Oh, and did I mention that I’m learning how to cook this summer??

* In the evening, I had a great conversation with my new good friend and stellar cooking partner, Uyen about her feelings as an international student from Vietnam. She talked about the assumptions that people make about her as an “asian” person, and I talked about my feelings as a Jewish student. The things that you learn about people… I’m living in a house with an eclectic group of people diverse in backgrounds, interests, personalities, talents and styles. I will keep making an effort to get to know each and every one of them.

* I went to the Adams County Office for the Aging (ACOFA) and talked with Steve Niebler. DID YOU KNOW: Offices for Aging in Pennsylvania receive 70% of their budget from the PA Lottery. Yup! So, if you are from PA, you’re probably familiar with the commercial where Gus the Groundhog pops up on the TV screen and tells everyone to “Keep on Scratchin’!”

It feels silly to admit, but out of all the new information I’ve had to digest this week, that corny little phrase stuck with me the most — It just fits. I’ve begun to glimpse a whole new Gettysburg that I’ve hardly ever seen during the school year. As I have begun to scratch the surface, here are some of the impressions I have formed: Gettysburg is a community that aches like any other, dealing with issues related to the wage-gap, food insecurity and cross-cultural differences. It is also one that has responded to its grievances with a will to action and has addressed its problems with creativity and generosity.

In just this week, I have been moved by people like Linda Thompson from ACOFA, who has been working with the elderly for almost 20 years and always has a smile on her face; by the single parents at Circles whose stories of financial and family struggle — and more importantly their openness to share and commitment to improve — were simply incredible; and by the amazing food donors we have been working with, including Elaine Lemmon from Everblossom Farm who donated 7 huge boxes of lettuce heads, the Servo crew who saved 10 trays of prepared food for us, and the people at Kennie’s Market who love it when I stop by carrying my big red wagon for pick-up. All of these people — their kindness and willingness to help — are effecting positive change in the Gettysburg community everyday. If this is what has been beneath the surface, then heck yes, I will keep scratchin’! I will keep exploring. Wouldn’t you?

Eric Harris