A Beautiful Stain by Alia Capone

As the service term is winding down, I’ve been reflecting on my personal growth this year and the moments that have left a lasting impression on me. Many of these moments have been from serving the greater Philadelphia community through our monthly service projects and outside service events. And as I put on my favorite pair of leggings and my NHC t-shirt for our final member meeting, I’m greeted with the physical reminders of these resonant moments.

Faded grease spots on my worn and weathered blue NHC t-shirt from cooking several Sundays at Grace Café. Lilac-colored paint spatter on my leggings from repainting the halls of Alexander McClure Elementary School in Philadelphia. Dirt and grime under my fingernails in the aftermath of gardening at the Life Do Grow Garden, beautifying a space for members of the community. Tie dye splotches on my arms that remained for days after decorating bandanas at Girls on the Run to wear for our 5K Race. The stains are small but they represent a much larger impact.

This year I was on the service committee of NHC Philadelphia, which means I had the opportunity to work with 4 other incredible people (Farid, Isaac, Marianne, and Tucker- pictured right) to find monthly service projects for our cohort to volunteer at in Philadelphia. Our final service project of the year stemmed from an organization I volunteered with throughout the year, Girls on the Run Philadelphia. Coaching Girls on the Run has allowed me to mentor middle school girls and promote physical, emotional, and mental health and well-being. This program has been one of the best parts of my year of service. The girls I coached have such vibrant personalities, and I got to see them shine at every practice through skits, games, running, tutu-making (a tradition for the 5K) and of course the end-of-season celebration where each one left a permanent mark signing my GOTR sweatshirt. 

Another outside service activity was cooking and serving at Grace Cafe, a meal serve for people who are currently experiencing homelessness. Some sundays we’d serve for 8+ hours cooking in the kitchen and bonding with the staff, especially Joe, the “head chef”. While initially it was a way to catch up on hours, serving at Grace Cafe became an integral part of my weekend routine, one I always looked forward to, especially through spending time with the staff and guests there. In April we organized a health fair for the Grace Cafe guests and helped 82 people get health screenings. There’s something to be said about working really hard all day in a sweltering kitchen, or planning an event for 3 months and the products of your work end up serving 200+ people. Not to mention I’d rarely leave after cooking without a few token butter and oil splotches on my shirt from some concoction Joe had us whip up.

Both Girls on the Run and Grace Cafe, along with other service projects throughout the year, gave me the opportunity to reach beyond the walls of my host site and make an impact in the larger Philadelphia area. They’ve all left their mark on me in some form or fashion this year.

Stain. /stan/ noun. A colored patch or dirty mark that is difficult to remove. That’s the dictionary definition. The term often has a negative connotation. It’s something that we typically want to remove or rid ourselves of. But the stain that NHC and Philadelphia has left on me is one that I am proud to wear, on my clothing, under my fingernails, and in my heart.