Editor’s note: The following article was originally published on pages 38 and 40 of the Nov. 15, 2012, edition of the Battle Creek Shopper News, with the headline “KCC students give back to low income families.” It’s republished here in advance of the last Bruins Give Back volunteer event of the semester, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 14. Click here to register to volunteer for the event online on KCC’s website.
Julie Roberts tapes the bottom of a cardboard box and hands it to a woman to be filled with food – peanut butter, canned goods, pasta and apple juice – and then repeats the process again and again, as she has done all morning and will continue to do for the next hour.
The boxes are being packaged for distribution by Community Action for the federal The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and this batch will help supplement the diets of low-income people in two of seven Michigan counties Community Action serves.
The sheer number of boxes, stacked more than head-high on pallets placed throughout the Battle Creek warehouse, speaks to the real need for assistance in the region.
Roberts, a professor at Kellogg Community College and coordinator of the college’s Physical Therapist Assistant Program, is serving with around a dozen of her PTA students as part of Bruins Give Back, a volunteer event held three times each semester to give KCC students and employees an opportunity to serve in the community.
Robert says she encouraged her class to participate as a way to engage in an activity together as a group outside of class. As volunteers, she says, they likely get as much out of the experience as those who benefit from their services.
“The sense of giving back to the community gives you that feeling of satisfaction,” Roberts says. “I’ve been blessed in many ways, and I think it’s important to give back.”
A few miles southwest of the warehouse, a handful of KCC students are helping Battle Creek Area Habitat for Humanity workers remove a wheelchair ramp from a Battle Creek area residence, with the materials to be reused or recycled for the benefit of a future recipient of Habitat services.
Among the volunteers is Jade Bolden, a Legacy Scholar taking general education classes at KCC who spent her morning lifting boards and pulling debris from the dirt below the half-dismantled ramp.
Bolden volunteered a lot through HandsOn Battle Creek when she was in high school at Battle Creek Central, and enjoys the work because it helps her make connections in the community and “shows who you really are,” she says.
“When you’re doing it just to get paid, your heart’s not really in it,” she says. “But when you’re doing it to help someone out, your heart is in it.”
For Mike King, construction manager for the Battle Creek Area Habitat for Humanity, the value of volunteer work is simple: He says it drives the organization.
“With the volunteer work we can offer products or housing or ramps or repairs at a much more affordable rate for people of low income,” King says.
He cites as an example a wheelchair ramp the organization recently installed for an individual for $800 after another company gave the person an estimate of more than $12,000 to complete similar work.
“It’s good to have people involved,” King says.
In addition to working with Community Action and the Battle Creek Area Habitat for Humanity, other volunteers are working with students at Springfield Middle School to craft dog toys for the Humane Society of South Central Michigan and others are working at the nonprofit Woodlawn Preschool planting flowers, sanitizing equipment and helping prepare materials for teachers.
Pattie Walter, executive director of Woodlawn, says such volunteer work is necessary in order for the organization to function in its role in the community.
“In order for us to be able to provide services at a reduced cost, we have to rely on community support and volunteers,” Walter says. “We’re very fortunate the community supports us greatly.”
Brad LaRochelle, a warehouse manager at Community Action whose daughter attends KCC, echoes Walter’s sentiments when he emphasizes how important volunteers are to what the organization does.
“We are a very volunteer-based organization,” LaRochelle says. “Without them, we don’t work.”
LaRochelle praises the KCC students and staff who’ve spent their morning filling and stacking boxes in the center of the warehouse for their efficiency. They’ve nearly done enough work before noon to account for the first two food distributions of the seven the organization will need to complete starting in November.
“They can come anytime they want,” he says, laughing. “They’re awesome.”
Bruins Give Back is a Kellogg Community College volunteer event that occurs three times each semester and is open to all KCC students, faculty and employees to participate. A service learning event hosted with the college’s Student Life office and community organization HandsOn Battle Creek, the next Bruins Give Back event is scheduled for Dec. 14. For more information, visit www.kellogg.edu/socialscience/servicelearning/projects.html.