July 29, 2014

Two Sides of the Same Coin

by Nina Perrotta

Nina Perrotta '16 is a Communications and Marketing Intern for Amos House through the iProv Summer Internship Program

I spent my first morning at Amos House elbow-deep in potatoes and onions, apron around my waist and hair in a net. When lunchtime rolled around, I pushed back the sleeves of my button-down and put on clean rubber gloves; the soup kitchen was open, and I was on grilled-cheese duty.

A few days later, I’m at a fundraising golf tournament in Little Compton, camera bouncing against my chest. My job is to photograph the wealthy donors while a volunteer drives me around the beautiful, beachside course in a golf cart. When the game is over and the players start to gather in the clubhouse, my boss puts me in charge of selling raffle tickets. In the fifteen or twenty minutes before dinner starts, I make several hundred—maybe even a thousand—dollars for Amos House.

This is what it’s like working at the Amos House Development Office: one minute, I’m walking past a man sleeping on an abandoned porch (this was a daily occurrence early in my internship, when I still took the RIPTA to Broad Street and walked from there to Friendship Street), and the next, I’m writing a grant request for $30,000. Every morning, as my coworkers and I chat about our hobbies and weekend plans—mountain biking, kayaking, vacations to Maine—hundreds of people wait in line right outside the window, waiting for a hot meal. This is a place where worlds collide, and not always in a good way.

It was hard at first, and it still is. The neighborhood where Amos House is located consistently reports much-higher-than-average unemployment rates and much-lower-than-average per capita income, and working in the midst of this kind of poverty made me question everything we do in the Development Office. Why do we need to upgrade our website when that money could go straight to the Mother-Child Reunification Program, which helps reunite families who have been separated as a result of substance abuse and incarceration? Is it wrong that my boss and I spend most of our time thinking about wealthy donors instead of working directly with the demographic that Amos House serves?

As the end of my internship approaches, though, I’m starting to realize that the Development Office and the Social Services department, which works closely with guests, are two sides of the same coin. Neither one can exist on its own: without the money that my boss brings in with her incredible fundraising skills, Social Services couldn’t provide assistance to clients. And my boss’s skillset is perfectly suited to the Development Office—putting her to work in the soup kitchen, for example, would be a waste of her talent. And this is what I’m beginning to understand: everyone at Amos House has their own place, and no matter what I do here, whether it’s grant-writing, creating website content, or just stuffing fundraising envelopes, it’s going to help someone get a job, find shelter, or learn how to read. Whatever I do here, it matters.

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