Monday, March 22, 2010

University of Idaho Volunteers

Hey Ya’ll,

Life has been absolutely crazy down here on the gulf. I’m working on posting everything we’ve been doing.

This last week, a group from the University of Idaho came to Bay Saint Louis for Alternative Service Break. The group leader was the Dean of Students, Bruce Pitman, and it was really neat getting to know him. I was able to show him just how beneficial this internship has been and convince him that this program needs to continue at the University of Idaho. It was also neat getting to know U of I students that I had never met before. They were an energetic group that put their hearts into everything they did. I loved each and every one of them. I joined them for reflection every night they were here and really enjoyed seeing them experience the emotions that are connected to this kind of work. They realized why hurricane relief is still so important even 5 years after the storm. I know all of them were affected by their trip in a positive way, and I have faith that they will continue doing good in the world.

The video I posted right before this post is actually a discovery the University of Idaho students made. This house was untouched until they stumbled upon it last week. The family had moved away because they were unable to find their home after Katrina. Luckily, U of I was able to recover some of their personal belongs and give some closure to the family. Be sure to watch the clip.

ASB is hands down the best program at U of I. Thank you to the students who gave up their spring breaks to make a difference. You definitely succeeded.  

xoxo, Fran

Check this out...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I've only known these people for a little over a month, but they are some of my very closest friends.
(Megan, Rey, Heidi, Michelle, Me, Matt, Lindsay) xoxo

School After The Storm

A few days a week I volunteer at a local high school… mostly helping kids in the Algebra I class with there homework. This week I was lucky enough to meet a staff member who was the principal of the high school when Hurricane Katrina hit. Before talking to this woman, I guess I never really realized how much these students had been through.

Hurricane Katrina absolutely devastated Bay Saint Louis and the surrounding areas. The former principal told me school was out for two whole months. All materials were destroyed and most of the building needed to be redone. They eventually started having school in trailers on the property, but at that point in the recovery process, students were still living in tents and some had absolutely nothing. Even two or three years after the storm, there were still students living in these conditions. 

I just can’t even imagine…

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Catch & Release

I’m stuck in bed… hurting, bored and definitely don’t want to do homework. Then I remembered something HILARIOUS that happened last week, and decided I should share it with you.

John is a construction supervisor/facilities manager here at Mission on the Bay. He is as “Mississippi” as you can get (I can’t really think of any other way to say it). He has a heavy southern accent, loves Jesus and doesn’t put up with anyone’s crap. I’ve learned to love him, but I’m not going to lie, I’m also pretty intimidated by him. I definitely would not want to be on John’s bad side.

Well, the other day, I was minding my own business. I had just finished lunch and was talking with a few other volunteers. All of a sudden Lindsay came up to me and said John needed to take me somewhere after lunch and it was REALLY important. Everyone sitting around me was saying things like, “uhh ohh” or “wear something that can get muddy”… things like that. Even the director of Mission on the Bay said, “Well, I guess it’s your time Fran.” They all knew what was about to happen.

So I grabbed my jacket (and my camera) and met John out by his truck. I knew I couldn’t say no. As I was climbing in he told me to wait and to come to the back of the truck. I peered into the truck bed and noticed a fairly large cage… and then I noticed something inside the cage… A RACCOON!

So I guess John’s neighbor is an elderly woman who has a raccoon problem. They always come into her yard and eat the cat food on her porch. She came to John a while ago and asked if he could help her with this problem. A lot of people just shoot raccoons, but John chooses to catch and release. He sets up cages and attracts the raccoons with honey buns. According to John, a honey bun to a raccoon is like “cocaine to a crack addict.”

John showed me that poor little raccoon and said, “You wanna come with me to set him free?” Who could say no?! I was so flattered that John invited me to come along, and I’m so glad he had it in his heart to set it free.

We drove out to the woods and let him go. I had to stand back, and John opened the cage from the truck bed. He was gone before I knew it. I bet there aren’t too many people who can say they’ve been raccoon catch and releasin’!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Well, I’m proud to say I am now a member of the WHO DAT NATION! I can’t even explain how amazing it was to be in the gulf this Super Bowl season. Even though Bay Saint Louis is 45 minutes outside of New Orleans, the Saint spirit was alive! The game was awesome, and I’ve never enjoyed a Super Bowl so much. We set up a big screen and projector here at Mission on the Bay and had a little volunteer party. It was a good time!

The next day, a few of us traveled to New Orleans for the Saints Parade. Stephanie, Jake (two other Idaho interns), Rey (a long term volunteer), Matt (a construction supervisor), and I squeezed into Matt’s little Neon after work and made our way to the city. We sat for a good two hours in parade traffic, but it was worth every second. The streets were packed but we managed to get an awesome spot to watch the parade. It was so neat to be part of New Orleans that night. They deserved this win more than anyone. The players threw us beads, and luckily I was standing next to Jake (he’s really tall) so he was able to catch a ton! Drew Brees threw one to Stephanie, and I’m definitely a little jealous about that one! It was just a night full of adventure! Jake and I were even able to sneak into the Marriot to use the restroom. They were carding everyone, but we just walked in like we owned the place! Such a cool experience!

P.S. Thanks for the pictures Steph! I was too nervous to take my camera in such a big crowd!


I had the coolest opportunity last weekend! I traveled to Tupelo, Mississippi for the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi’s Diocesan Counsel. Basically that’s a complicated way of saying I attended a convention with Episcopalians from all over the state. Butch and Elizabeth (my bosses) needed to attend because Elizabeth is an Episcopal priest. They also invited Lindsay (the Volunteer Concierge) and ME! I’m an Episcopalian so they figured I would enjoy it. While Butch and Elizabeth were in meetings, Lindsay and I worked at a Mission on the Bay booth and told people about our organization. It was really cool! On Saturday night after the meetings there was a catfish fry and a dance! I never thought I could have that much fun with a group of Episcopal priests, but it was definitely a great time. The next day we visited the birthplace of Elvis and drove the 5 hours back to Bay Saint Louis. Luckily we made it home just in time for the Super Bowl. WHO DAT!

Red Onions

Even after almost cutting my finger completely off and crying more than I ever have in one week (due to the onions), I can honestly say I had an awesome week in the kitchen. I bet I washed over 1000 dishes, diced over 100 vegetables and realized more about service than I ever have.

When I came to Mississippi to volunteer, I figured the majority of my time would be spent on the worksite doing construction. However, after being here for a few days, I realized that there is so much more than just construction. Feeding the volunteers that come through Mission on the Bay was a really cool experience, and I now have a new understanding of the big picture of service. When working at a recovery center like Mission on the Bay, every role is just as important as another. Without one, the others aren’t everything they can be. It was really cool to realize this.

Ohh! And just so you know… my finger is healing quite nicely. Just watch out for red onions when I’m in the kitchen! (That’s what Charlie says.) AND I am now a cornbread master! Just something to look forward to until I come home!

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Time is the most valuable thing you can give a person."

My new friend Charlie told me this in one of our many discussions, and I truly think its one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. Charlie’s one of those guys you can’t help but love. This retired New Yorker can hardly ever be taken seriously, but he makes me laugh so I put up with him. I really admire Charlie because even though he jokes around a lot, he truly does give so much. Charlie is a long term volunteer here at Mission on the Bay, and he’s doing it just because he loves it.

I don’t think Charlie was really trying to give me advice, but he really got me thinking when he said, “Time is the most valuable thing you can give a person.” It made me think about my life and wonder how I’ve given my time. Charlie does this everyday, and it truly is inspiring. Looking back on how I do things, I really don’t think I’ve given my time like I could have. I’ve always tended to fill my life with activities so spare time was really hard to find. When it came to giving, I was great at organizing an event or throwing money at a charity, but did I ever really give me time? My heart? No. I was sincere in my actions, but sitting and truly listening to a person who needs you is different. Giving your time, even if you don’t have time to give. I don’t know… I’ve just been thinking about this so much, and it’s something I really want to work on. I want to be a better friend, and give my friends the time they need. I want to be there for my family. Rather than talking all about my life on the phone, ask them about their lives. And I especially want to be here for the people I’ve met in Mississippi. I don’t want to just go through the checklist of things a volunteer is supposed to do. I want to offer my heart… if that makes sense. I truly want to hear, feel and understand.

Just something I’ve been thinking about…

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Work, New Orleans, etc...

Hey Ya’ll!

So after speaking to my parents, I realized I needed to explain some things a little more. To be honest, this first week has been so busy that I really haven’t had a chance to blog. Now I’m getting into the swing of things, and I’m looking forward to sharing experiences and posting photos.

Here is my plan for the next ten weeks:

I am volunteering with Mission on the Bay. This is an organization run by LESM (Lutheran Episcopal Services in Mississippi). LESM houses and feeds volunteers who come to do hurricane relief work. I am interning with LESM so my job is to work with these volunteers. I’ve spent my first week learning about the organization, but now the real work begins. Starting tomorrow I will be on a weeklong rotation schedule and this will teach me everything I need to know about running a non-profit organization. My first week will be spent in the kitchen… making meals for all of the volunteers staying here at the center. My second week in the case management office… determining what families need our help. My third week on the worksite doing construction. And my fourth week will be working with the administration. I’ll be working with Butch (the guy in charge), and I’m really excited for him to teach me everything he knows. After this first month of rotations, I’ll choose my favorite and spend the rest of my time working with that department. I’ve also requested to volunteer in an elementary school one day a week, and hopefully that will begin this week.

I apologize for not posting more this first week. I’ve just been trying to figure out exactly what I’m doing, and now I feel like I have a good handle on things. I’ve been experiencing the culture this week and loving it. The south truly is a whole different world.

I spent this last weekend in New Orleans. After Katrina, I always wondered why hurricane victims didn’t just leave. I didn’t understand why they would continue to rebuild, even though another hurricane would most likely come in a few years. I didn't understand one bit.

Now I get it. I started to understand in Bay Saint Louis this week, but after being in New Orleans, it makes perfect sense. I really can’t even explain it, but New Orleans has more pride, love and personality than any city I’ve ever seen. They are united by what they’ve been through, and they are stronger because of it. This is home, and leaving it isn't even an option for them. I was part of the New Orleans crowd on Saturday. I spent my day walking around, talking to fun people, and visiting little shops. I even bought myself a “WHO DAT” sweatshirt. I don’t even want to leave after spending a week here. I can understand why someone who’s spent his or her whole life here wouldn’t leave after the storm. I have a new respect for these people and what they stand for.

Time for bed, but I promise I’ll post more.

xoxo, Fran

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Just a few pics...

This is where I live!! The fence with all the signs is a project I did on my first day. These signs were made by all of the different groups who have stayed at the center. I drilled lots of holes and fastened this to the fence with zip ties! haha!

You guys are awesome! Thanks for following. It means a lot :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

We have arrived!

Greetings from Bay St. Louis!

Sorry I haven’t posted. So much has been going on. I was in Moscow last week and loved seeing everyone, but it broke my heart to say goodbye. I am so thankful for so many amazing friends. But now I am in Mississippi and am absolutely loving it! I can’t even really explain it, but there’s a feeling I get when I’m in the south. The people have the biggest hearts, and everyone is always willing to tell a story or have a conversation. It really does feel like home.

But now I’ll tell you about what I’m doing here…

I’m working with an organization called Lutheran Episcopal Services in Mississippi (LESM). I guess I’m officially considered staff at Mission on the Bay because I am interning here at the volunteer center. This volunteer center houses thousands of volunteers every year. Some are working with Habitat for Humanity, others with Americore, and some simply work for Mission on the Bay. I’m working at the center with volunteers so they can do great things and have an amazing experience. Some days I’ll spend my time learning about the administrative side of things, others will be focused on hospitality, and some are spent doing casework. Of course, I’ll also be doing lots of construction. I’ve requested to volunteer at a local elementary school once or twice a week, and I’m meeting with the principal tomorrow, so hopefully that will work out.

I seriously love it here. The people are amazing. There is no doubt in my mind that some of these people will be my lifelong friends… and I’ve only been here for 24 hours. Yesterday was ridiculous! The Saints won so it was a celebration! We had a bon fire and stayed up way too late even though we all had to wake up at 6:00 am. I can’t wait for all these new experiences.

I’m really tired tonight, and I have so much homework, but soon I want to write and focus on some of the books I’m reading and connect them to this experience! Shoot me a text or e-mail sometime. I’d love to hear from everyone!

Xoxo Fran

Thursday, January 14, 2010

All Packed!

Well, I’ve officially fit my whole life into two bags! I was really worried about it, but it all fit. I’m driving to Moscow with my family in the morning, and I’ll be there for a full week before I leave for Mississippi. Be sure to give me a call if you’re in Moscow!!
P.S. Keep Haiti in your prayers… I’m heartbroken about the whole thing and really want to look into taking a trip to help in some way. Let me know if you’re interested!