Students use their Spring Break to give back

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A group of students decided to travel south to give back to those in need.

Young adults from Central Michigan University are on Spring Break this week.

Instead of relaxing or spending some fun in the sun, they decided to volunteer at the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas in Jonesboro.

Junior Josh Geary of Central Michigan University said the opportunity to give back was important to him.

"I think there's a lot of need," Geary said. "Both in this country and in the world. To be able to spend a week instead of being on a beach, but going out and being able to help a community in need is something both for me personally and my group as a whole were all looking forward to this. And we're all here to help. That's just the spirit of our University and the spirit of the 12 of us. So, we're excited to be here."

Fellow junior Meredith Moore said she wanted to help those who needed it.

"I've been blessed in many ways throughout my life," Moore said. "I knew that volunteering back home, I had volunteered at the food pantry at my church for a long time, so I decided that giving back to the community has given me so much throughout my life because I am from a rural area. Giving back to them is how I would rather spend my time on Spring Break."

Geary said this all began with a volunteer program at their university.

"We run through what we call our Alternative Breaks Program," Geary said. "That runs through our University's Volunteer Center. So, we signed up based on an issue. We chose an issue that had to do with middle America and food injustice and trying to find the root causes of why people are hungry. While we're here to help, like, package food and deliver food to people, we're also trying to understand why these people are hungry and how we in the future can make sure there are people in the country with food who don't have to worry about what they're going to eat tomorrow."

Outreach Coordinator for the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, Kassie Williams, said as a nonprofit organization they rely on the generosity of others to meet the need.

"We can't do what we do without the support of others," Williams said. "Whether that help be financial or giving of your time as you see here. We have so many boxes that go out every month that we could not do with only our staff here. We don't have enough people to get that done. So, volunteers are crucial to make sure that what we need to get done happens. As well as our donors and grants and things like that."

Geary said he believes when your life is blessed, you have to turn to those who aren't and help someone.

"When you are in a position where you have free time," Geary said. "Or if you have extra money or extra food, I think it's just the right thing to do. And I think it's the human thing to do to take care of other people who have caught a bad break and are unable to feed themselves and their family. Maybe their car broke down and they have to choose between fixing their car or eating dinner that day. The twelve of us are in a position where we can give up our time and come down and help. So, if people are fortunate enough to be in that position where they can help then you have to take advantage of that and go out and make a difference."

"Impoverished families are not a choice," Moore said. "It's not that they're lazy or anything like that. A lot of it is uncontrollable circumstances. No matter if you're going to donate time or money, helping others is what's important."

The volunteers said while it was a lot of fun to know they were helping others, they were going to walk away with a new perspective on the hunger situation so many people face.

"I think I'm going to walk away," Geary said. "With a better understanding of how the world works. I come from a good home and I've never had to worry about food insecurity. But to walk away understanding that there are people in this country who struggle with a lot of different things. It's important to recognize that people need help and that I need to do my best to make sure those people are being served."

"I am going to bring back home," Moore said. "When anybody says it's a choice to be impoverished, it's a choice to not have food or it's a choice not to have a job. It's not. It's not a choice. It's circumstances that God puts in your path you can't control. And a lot of times people don't understand you don't have control over what's around you. You can only control yourself and what you do to help. So, the fact that we're here volunteering and helping that is what's important."

Williams said it meant a lot to have these young people come all this way to help.

"This is one of the most encouraging things I have seen," Williams said. "It just inspired me and I think it inspired people in our building here. They are giving not only their free time, but they're giving their Spring Break. Which a lot of people know that in college that is a big thing. So, they're choosing their Spring Break to come here and serve us and that just means so much. It's encouraging. It's inspiring and I hope to see more people in our area be just like them and give their time."

When they weren't working hard, Geary said they got to visit Arkansas State University and Craighead Forest Park.

The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas covers 12 counties and serves an average of 110,000 meals a week.

There are about 81,000 people in Northeast Arkansas suffer from food insecurity.

For more information on how you can help, you can contact the Food Bank at (870) 932-3663 or (870) 932-FOOD.

To log onto their website, click here.

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