The Joy of Community in East St. Louis

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” –Dorothy Day

Community. Throughout the week on my fall break service trip to East St. Louis, the concept of community itched at my mind. There were times when I felt alive in community and times when I was heartbroken at the struggle and despair of a community who has often been forgotten in a larger context of community.

One of the joys of community I experienced on my service trip was at Sr. Thea Bowman elementary school. We lived next to the school and volunteered there everyday. It only took a couple warm smiles and we were in. It felt special to be a part this school community, who supported their students through everything. A large majority of the students live in poverty so many difficulties arise from this, but the staff and teachers know the students and are there for them. Among many other things they don’t hesitate to give the children safe rides home from school when needed.

The supportive and loving community I experienced at Sr. Thea Bowman and other shelters and services was refreshing in context to the heartbreak of East St. Louis as a whole. There are relatively no job opportunities as businesses have moved out, and neighborhoods of abandoned houses and factories leave a landscape reminiscent of a community forgotten.

Holding both the joys and struggles of East St Louis close, I hope to not forget the community I experienced on this trip and challenge myself to find community where it is not always evident.

Kate Pitz
Class of 2014
College of Arts and Sciences
Service and Justice Trips Core Team

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