I'm Ariel Dennis, a soon-to-be graduate from Appalachian State University. I am obtaining my degree in Sociology, with a focus on criminology, deviance, and law; along with this, I have an art minor!
I started my internship in the new food pantry, organizing it, and really making it mine was my job. I soon started referring to it as the "bodega". A bodega is usually found in densely populated cities, it's like a gas station where you could get almost anything you'd need like cat food, a soda, band-aids, etc. The point of changing the name was to change the stigma that was lingering when visiting our bodega. I also added music because our grocery stores have music playing- so should our bodega! my whole mission was to try and erase as much stigma as possible because we have all needed help at some time.
Keith soon assigned me my main project, which was to build a bridge between the Hospitality House and Bradford Park next door. To do so I made friends with the landlord and started bringing her two premade food boxes per week to have in her main office for the residents to pick up whenever they visited her. A problem quickly became apparent, no one was taking the boxes! So I met with the landlord and discussed the issues and eventually came up with a delivery system for (at first) five residences at Bradford Park. I made their boxes custom to their situation, either a family, a single-person household, and took into account any dietary restrictions or needs. This became a weekly thing for me, creating and packing up my little Kia to deliver these boxes, and it soon turned into a weekly wellness check, not just food delivery.
A second project I was working on was creating an art class for the kids in HH and the kids in the surrounding community. Since I had three years of Art Education under my belt, I made ten lesson plans that were inclusive enough for the younger kids and interesting enough for the older kids, so everyone would have fun during the classes. I had printed out my flyers and was ready to start my classes.
Sadly though, all was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic. With my asthma, Todd fully supported me wanting to start self quarantining ASAP. Since then.... nothing's been the same for me. I miss the staff and residences, I miss my work in the bodega and I miss doing my deliveries. (Now someone else does them for me, which is amazing, so the people who need the food boxes are still getting them!)
The entire world changed around us in the blink of an eye, and Hospitality House is one of those facilities that stay open no matter what, so even if your local store or business is shut down, we're still here, we're still helping. Mr. Rogers said before that when he was a child he saw scary things on the news, so his mother would say "Look for the helpers, you will always find people that are helping."