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March 12, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

Community of Service…E. Louise Larson



Today’s post is written by E. Louise Larson, a HandsOn Tech VISTA and recent transplant in Pittsburgh, PA. As an advocate of community and economic development, she can be found researching how communities adopt new technology. Her spare time is spent fretting over the GRE’s calculus section.



The call came while I was driving through an underpass. “Hello Louise. My name is [STATIC], calling from [STATIC]. Do you have a minute to discuss this opportunity?” Knowing this was a call back from Alex Trebek, I stayed on the line.


“Uhhh, well sure…Who is this again?” My future supervisor would come to know me for my eloquence. “This is Ben Weaver from Pittsburgh Cares and HandsOn Tech. You applied for an AmeriCorps position here. Are you sure this is a good time?” Of course it wasn’t a good time. I was late for work. And when did I apply for a job in Pittsburgh?


Fast forward two weeks: My co-worker picked me up from Pittsburgh International Airport. We had met each other one week earlier during a technology boot camp for HandsOn Tech in California. She would graciously let me stay with her in my first few East Coast weeks. I could not wait for my first official day of service.


The first few days were spent getting to know my project site better. We were working with nonprofits all over the city. Getting home was always an adventure. Many knowledgeable bus drivers helped me along the way.


As several weeks passed, I found my own nice house and roommates. I was learning a lot, and constantly surprised by how much I was falling in love with this city. Then, without notice, I became incredibly homesick.


It was a particular breed of homesickness. There’s a loneliness that comes from being adrift, removed, or otherwise without community. My community out West is very close. It’s the kind of people who don’t knock when they come over. Now, I didn’t have that closeness. There were no mid-afternoon music sessions. No plans for camping trips. No one showed up at my house to drink coffee and talk about going to grad school.


Then comes the Holiday. I had not made plans to go back home. I had also not expected to miss home so much. The week before Christmas, my family surprised me with a plane ticket back to Montana. I spent a couple weeks in the company of my friends and family.


When I came back to Pittsburgh, my homesickness was cured. While being back in the West, I shared stories of my life in the East. Of the brilliant people I worked with, of my incredibly kind and hilarious roommates, and of the people who have supported me in the most unexpected ways.


Those in my newly forged community have been selfless. Their lives are a testament to service. Through their patient support I was able to find a renewed confidence in my decisions. In this community of service I was able to gain a better understanding of myself. I am looking forward to what other growing experiences my year of service will bring.


Get involved with a community of service through HandsOn Tech. Located in eight cities, HandsOn Tech is teaching web technology, increasing community resources, and broadening the reach of nonprofits. Learn more about Pittsburgh’s team here.


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