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Journal of Student Scholarship

Journal of Student Scholarship

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Kelly Branam Macauley, St. Cloud State University

Abstract

This ethnographic study is based off of six weeks of participant observation and ethnographic research with Neighbors to Friends, a local grassroots organization in Central Minnesota that facilitates a free laundry program and runs a mobile shower vehicle that provides showers to those experiencing homelessness. By fully participating in the day-to-day operations of Neighbors to Friends, the purpose of this project is to gain a holistic understanding of how this unique nonprofit organization creates a sense of community for those experiencing homelessness and poverty. Nancy Dyson, the director of Neighbors to Friends, has a leadership style that allows for volunteers, community partners, and the people they serve to take ownership in the program and creates a sense of community where all are welcome. In a capitalistic society, people are often seen as commodities and value is often placed on a person based on what they can contribute to society financially. Neighbors to Friends rejects this ideal and finds value in people just because they are human. By comparing my observations to scholarly research about community and grassroots leadership styles, I argue that Neighbors to Friends not only meets the physical needs of marginalized individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty, but fosters an environment where community is created and the need to belong is met as well.

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