Students spend their spring break volunteering

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas in Jonesboro received some major out of town help on Tuesday, with over 30 students from Minnesota in an organization called "Students Today, Leaders Forever."

These students are traveling to non-profit charitable organizations and volunteering to help in whatever ways they can.

Kendra is a Sophomore in college and a part of this organization. "The purpose of the club is to reveal leadership through service action and relationships. Over spring break we take a nine day trip across the country and do volunteering along the way."

Kendra is participating in the tour for the second time this year. "We all love volunteering and we want to change the world in ways that we can and it really starts with just one person. And we all feel that we are that one person who can start the change."

Freshman Lauryn Wilson is volunteering for the first time this year. Lauryn says she's been amazed at how grateful the people are they've been helping. "It kind of surprised me how thankful everyone is. We've gotten so many meals and stuff people have cooked for us and sometimes I don't realize how nice people can be. We always call where we're from 'Minnesota Nice', but I'm seeing it all over and I think 'U.S. Nice'."

Kendra says they get the opportunity to help others and make life long friends. "I've learned that it's about more than volunteering. When you're on the road with around forty other people that you really don't know until you go on the tour, it's nice to know that you're all there for one collective reason. You're there to help others while creating great friendships that last forever. I met a couple of girls last year and we're best friends, now."

Lauryn Wilson, "I came on this trip knowing, like, two people. Now, I know all thirty-three people on the bus so it's really a great way to build friendships and work with each other to accomplish a common goal."

Director of Development for the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, Vicki Pillow, says having these students come and volunteer has been a blessing.

"There are thirty-two college students here willing to help us. It's been a gift to me, today. They are so enthusiastic, so energetic. I have just enjoyed them being here so much and they've helped so much. They've done so many projects in just a few hours that would have taken us days to do."

The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas works to help thousands of people in Northeast Arkansas. They serve over 5,000 people every week with emergency food assistance.

The Food Bank is part of a back pack program where they help four hundred and eighty children during the school year and they have a senior pack program that helps one hundred and sixty senior citizens who are having trouble making ends meet.

Lauryn says the feeling you get from knowing your helping others is far better than sleeping the days away or relaxing on a beach.

"The first thing I've noticed is getting thank you from everybody. It's better than going to the beach in Florida or something like that. It gives you a feeling inside that just builds up. I don't know how to explain it. It's like when you finish running a race or something, that adrenaline rush you get. You get a feeling like that from helping people and it's better than running a race because it's not as hard or tiring. It's fun and exciting."

Kendra says the number of different things they've done as they trek across the country has been amazing. "We're experiencing a bunch of different ways to volunteer. We've done wood chipping, cleaning and even visited a couple of nursing homes. So, there's a huge variety."

Above all, these students says they want people to know that one person can make a difference and should get involved.

Lauryn Wilson, "I feel like a lot of people don't volunteer because they feel like one person can't make a difference, but me like filling one back pack for a kid to go to school. I'm changing that kids day for him having, like, food for the weekend is going to make a huge difference in how he grows up."

Kendra Souther, "We just want to break that mold that's given to most of us where college students spend their spring break going to Florida or somewhere out of the country and do things that aren't really effective. We're just trying to say 'hey, we're out there making a difference. We're trying to be that college kid out there helping to change someone's life."

Before arriving in Jonesboro the students worked in Iowa, Illinois and St. Louis.

They are headed to Greenville, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee when they finish up in Jonesboro.

For more information about Students Today, Leaders Forever, log onto their website.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, you can call them at 932-3663 or 932-FOOD.

For more information about the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, log onto their website.

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