The Saturday Service
People from all over Seattle turned out to help clean up the White Center neighborhood last May. Seattle Pacific also sent a team in conjunction with one of SPU's quarterly service days.
"Yes, we got Hicks Lake!" exclaimed our group leader the morning of our Latreia community service day. I had never been to Hicks Lake but was excited to go. On the way there, I thought about how in high school I told myself that volunteering would be a new part of my lifestyle when I came to Seattle Pacific University. I had always wanted to give back. But freshman year, I would see the colorful, chalk Latreia signs around campus and always felt too busy or lazy to sign up.
Latreia is a student-led organization at SPU that hosts quarterly service days and helps to connect students to nonprofit organizations in Seattle. On this particular Saturday morning, Latreia was working with the annual White Center Spring Clean in the White Center neighborhood of Seattle. We started out the day with a pancake breakfast at SPU and then headed over to the White Center Community Center, where we were assigned to work at the lake.
When we arrived, we met a man who had been volunteering at Hicks Lake for more than 30 years. He told us about the lake's history, but I was distracted by the beauty of the sun reflecting from the lake's surface. Then I heard him say, "This lake is a toxic waste dump." That got my attention.
He went on to tell us that all of the sewage of Seattle and White Center came streaming into this very lake. Over the years, the center had been trying to clean it up and turn it into a place the whole neighborhood could enjoy.
"You guys will have the important task of clearing out the harmful plants surrounding the big oak trees," he said. I grabbed trash bags and a heavy shovel and felt ready to take out anything that would hurt the trees. But, I saw nothing but green leafy plants and yellow flowers that looked like daisies.
I was baffled as to what plants I was suppose to evict from the oak's roots. One of my fellow volunteers asked me if I needed help, and I explained my dilemma. She then told me that the roots of the plants I was so fond of shared the same soil as the oak and stole its water and nutrients. I couldn't believe something so beautiful could be so destructive.
After an hour or so of digging and sweating, we were told to stop and go back to the community center for music, dancing, and Mexican food. I still remember the smell of the pinto beans, rice, chicken, and various red and green salsas. It was inspiring to see at least 300 other volunteers from all over Seattle there with us.
I left White Center full, exhausted, and dirty, but I wouldn't have spent my Saturday any other way. Now that I've experienced how fun and fulfilling it is to spend Saturday with Latreia, I am dedicated to making it a more consistent part of my life at SPU.