BY KORE SEVERANCE – STAFF WRITER
On Saturday, September 23, STAND and the Bonner Program organized an event at New Hope Food Pantry, a non-profit organization with the purpose of providing food for Boyle county families, often serving over a thousand families per month. At the event, the building was cleaned and renovated to make it more accessible and efficient.
Extending the opportunity to volunteer to Centre College students allowed a large variety of people to come and do service together.Members from Alpha Phi Omega, Bonner, STAND, Alpha Delta Pi, Student Government Association, Phi Kappa Tau, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Kappa Alpha Theta, Delta Delta Delta, Residence Assistants, Centre faculty and staff, Centre Environmental Association, Beta Theta Pi, Kappa Delta, CentreSigners, and DanceGold participated in this event.
Sophomore Josh Melson, STAND Secretary, Alpha Phi Omega Alumina Affairs Coordinator, and Bonner Scholar, worked at the New Hope Food Pantry event. Melson was at the event an hour before the first shift to set up the college vans for transportation, and stayed until the last shift ended. Melson thoroughly enjoyed the event: “[We] got a lot of good work done, everyone was very productive,” he said. He explained how service events with a specific goal often risk having limited opportunities for volunteers to participate, but this was not the case on Saturday. “Everyone had something to do and there was a lot of good work getting done, so it was wonderful,” he said.
Melson participates in service activities with the hope of having an impact on the community, and played a very active role in the event this past Saturday. “I was in charge of transportation, so I, along with a few other people, used the college vans to shuttle people back and forth between campus and the New Hope Food Pantry,” he said. At the site, Melson led a group in moving all the food and furniture out of the pantry, and pitched in wherever he could, whether it be to clean shelves, paint walls, or clean out some of the refrigerators and freezers.
Melson attributes the Food Pantry Event idea to junior Hannah Gibbs, the president of STAND as well as a Bonner Leader, Resident Assistant, and Co-Pledge Educator within Alpha Phi Omega. “She is amazing, and she is on top of her game at all times. She’s really passionate about service in general. [The New Hope Food Pantry event] was her idea and her child, so to speak,” he said.
Gibbs started a STAND chapter on Centre’s campus her freshman year. STAND is founded in student-planned and student-led community service and action. The organization’s events have ranged from the New Hope Food Pantry event, to Human Trafficking Awareness Week, to a clean-up day at a local African American cemetery. STAND chooses a philanthropy to benefit each year: last year they worked with the Wilderness Trace Child Development Center, a school where children developing with a wide range of physical and mental abilities learn together in the same classroom to promote educational opportunities and inclusion.
Gibbs brought STAND to Centre because she saw a need for more service options on campus. Gibbs is not only the president of Centre’s STAND chapter, but also leads the state-wide level of the organization, which includes eight other chapters across Kentucky.“I actually started [STAND] before I came to Centre and we spent our summer doing leadership and finance training,” she explained. Gibbs has a strong passion for service, and when asked about where this passion comes from, she told the story of when her grandmother passed away. “It was a few days after she’s died … and [my grandfather] just gets his car keys and he says, ‘Come on Rose,’ – that’s my middle name— ‘we got work to do,” she recalled.
She and her grandfather then went to his garden and picked enough corn to fill 60 Walmart bags, and took the produce to the impoverished community where her grandmother grew up. “For me, to do that with my grandfather, to take food to people who are never, ever, going to be able to give him a thing, even a thank you, was honestly incredible,” she said. Consequently, Gibbs attributes her love of service to her family and the values they uphold. “They believe you should give back to other people, that you should work hard and give what you can to other people,” she explained.
Liz Brandt, Bonner Program and Community Service Coordinator and Centre Alumna (2015), worked closely with Gibbs to plan the New Hope Food Pantry event. Brandt was a Bonner as a student at Centre and became the senior intern for the program. Brandt has always felt deeply tied to service, but her first big role in service was starting her high school’s environmental club. “I didn’t have the language or theoretical basis to describe my passions back then, but my service was always rooted in this compassion for others and desire for justice,” she said. When asked about her expectations for the New Hope event, Brandt said they were fully surpassed. “[My expectations] evolved over time. Honestly, after Hannah got her hands on it, I knew the sky was the limit. Hannah worked diligently, including through the summer, to make the pantry day happen, and happen well,” she said.
If you are looking to get more involved, Gibbs told me about another collaborative event on October 28 at the Shelby City African American Cemetery. There are also meetings following up the New Hope Food Pantry event to help further serve the Danville community. If you have an interest in these meetings you can contact Gibbs for more information.
“To change one life is to change the world.” -Hannah Gibbs