Down the Road - Sergeant Bluff: Local Group With Global Impact
SERGEANT BLUFF, IA — Inside Sergeant Bluff is a hidden treasure not known to many outside of the community. The non-profit is known as We Serve, and is located inside Mosaic. We Serve was founded in 2012 after the owners of Mosaic went on a humanitarian trip with their employees. They found the trip brought the employees together, and it made them want to make a big difference in the community once they got home. Now they're helping others do the same. "It doesn't take much to find needs," said We Serve trip leader, Ryan Eldridge. "If you just walk down the road you could probably find somebody who could use a helping hand and that could be just as simple as an encouraging word." By day, Eldridge and his colleagues have very regular jobs. Eldridge is the Director of Special Projects at Mosaic in Sergeant Bluff. But in their spare time, they help members of the local community volunteer their time and efforts to serve those in need. Eldridge is a Trip Leader for We Serve, a non-profit organization that works with businesses to send their employees on humanitarian trips. Employees like Kristan Geary, the director of Building Blocks, and Wesley Jones, project manager for Avalon Construction. Geary and Jones are just two of a handful of employees who are preparing for a weeklong humanitarian trip to Belize in September. Like others who have gone before them, they will be spending their time filling the needs of the local community. Geary and her co-workers will be teaching pre-school classes and helping at a youth hostel. Jones and his crew will be repairing the school buildings and other structures in the country that are in dis-repair. "We try to pre-plan the project that we'll be involved with and then we'll see what resources are available there for us and we try to use the local construction methods. So we're not trying to bring in all of our technology and everything," Jones said. "We try to stick with what they know." Jones and Geary both say they've been blessed to visit many places and other countries in the past, but they know this one will be different for them, and their employees. "Some of them are a lot more nervous than I was expecting because a lot of them that I've encountered haven't really left the country before. This will be their first experience outside the country and they'll be in a poverty situation they've never been in before, so it's going to be really life changing for them," Jones said. They say they've been preparing by talking to volunteers who have gone on past humanitarian trips. "What I have heard from a lot of people is that you almost have a reverse culture shock when you come back and you realize all the different things that you have that the people that you worked with in another country don't have," Geary said. One thing they won't be taking with them is electronics. "The really important part about going on a 'We Serve' trip is being in the trip and so if we're on our phones and Facebook and all those types of things, it really kind of takes away from that experience," Geary said. Eldridge says We Serve will also offer national trips. He and his family went to Florida for one year to serve on a family-planned humanitarian trip. But he adds, to get people to volunteer in the local community, sometimes they first need to be taken out of their comfort zone. "Why not help in America? The simple answer to that is that people want to help they don't know how to get started many times," Eldridge said. "And what we found was the number 1 step if you will is to change your environment. To go some place where people may not have what you have and where they find joy and appreciation in things other than their possessions. We do want to focus on helping our local community, but Sometimes it takes people getting away and experiencing something different to help them appreciate the needs at home." Now Jones says his company is hoping to make the humanitarian trips an annual event. We Serve offers fundraising opportunities for companies who want to participate. The trips generally cost about $1,500 per person.