Nontraditional Spring Break plans that benefit the community

 

Zach Trueblood

Staff Writer

While most will be enjoying their Spring Break on a beach somewhere with a beverage in hand, there are dedicated students, staff and community members that will be devoting their time to giving back to the community. This is an event that Parkland hosts year after year and goes by the name of Alternative Spring Break.

Alternative Spring Break allows for students, and anyone else interested, the option to spend a few days volunteering their time in ways that not only benefit the community but themselves as well. Alternative Spring Break is being set up this year in conjunction with AmeriCorps VISTA and Student Life.

Mike Moran is the Parkland College Volunteer Coordinator and is also part of the AmeriCorps VISTA. This will be Moran’s second year at the college and he was able to explain what the goals of AmeriCorps VISTA are.

“Think of AmeriCorps like the Peace Corps but essentially the domestic branch. VISTA addresses poverty from a sustainability standpoint with a strong volunteer base,” Moran stated. “We’re having our Alternative Spring Break this year in two locations. One day will be spent at The Phoenix Daytime Drop-In Shelter and the other will be at the Independent Media Center or IMC. Duties will likely include general upkeep like hanging drywall or painting.”

Advocates for volunteer work aren’t hard to find at the college. This is a major event for Student Government. President Abby Vanderkloot plans to recruit many more students in joining her and the other members of Student Government in helping give back to the community.

“I think students should get involved in alternative spring break because it is a great way to get involved in the community. You get to help out others around you and have the chance to help make a change,” Vanderkloot explained. “We ask any members of Student Government who are around to participate in this volunteer opportunity and we try to get other students from different clubs or organizations to join us as well in bettering the community that surrounds us.”

Vanderkloot also had the opportunity to attend Alternative Spring Break last year, which is why she advocates so strongly for student involvement. Last year’s Alternative Spring Break was held at the food pantry.

“Last year we participated in alternative spring break at the Parkland College Pantry,” Vanderkloot added. “We were able to help get the food ready and organize it so people could have a clear understanding of what they were able to take. We were also taught how it all works so that we could spread the word and let other students know about the food bank and everything they have to offer.”

The Parkland Pantry opened in November 2013 and The Wesley Evening Pantry opened back in 2006. The pantry works hard to battle hunger throughout the community and making food more accessible to those here at Parkland as well. Katalyna Thomas, Director of the Wesley Food Pantry, explained some of the benefits of volunteering.

“Volunteering benefits all involved. Volunteers are not only helping combat local food insecurity and helping out their neighbors in need but they are also gaining a sense of accomplishment and, for students especially, developing valuable job skills such as customer service and organizational skills,” Thomas explained.

The Wesley Food Pantry is a fairly flexible and versatile institution. They’re always looking for eager volunteers and have many different opportunities available.

“We have many volunteering opportunities at the pantry,” Thomas added. “From truck unload and set up, to working a shift and helping clients select their groceries, to clean up. We also welcome volunteers to help with office work, such as gathering data, sorting number cards and working on fundraisers for the pantry.”

On top of these options for volunteer work with the Wesley Food Pantry and Alternative Spring Break, there is a service learning website that can direct students to a multitude of opportunities. One popular choice for English students is the Homework Club. Students are able to spend an hour or two a week tutoring and reading with young students at Garden Hills Elementary.

The service learning website is http://www.parkland.edu/servicelearning/

Alternative Spring Break will be at The Phoenix Daytime Drop-In Shelter on March 27 and the Independent Media Center on March 28, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. both days. For more information contact Chaya Sandler at csandler@parkland.edu.

For more information about volunteering at the Wesley Food Pantry visit www.wesleypantry.org or email directly at volunteer@wesleypantry.org.