Of Sarasota County’s 390,429 residents 11.6 percent fell below the poverty level from 2008 to 2012, and the number of children living in poverty nearly doubled from 2000 to 2010, rising from 12.9 to 21.5 percent. More than ever, Sarasota residents are in need and yet the participation of New College students is lacking. Whether due to heavy work loads, high stress levels or general lack of awareness, little support has been given so far to holiday initiatives. Despite this, there is still time to do some good this season and the remainder of the year. Meals on Wheels is taking volunteers, the Adopt a Family program is still running and it is never too late to donate food.
AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer Coordinator Lacy Mroz (’13) is currently reaching out to students and taking volunteers for the Meals on Wheels Program. Meals on Wheels of Sarasota, Inc. (MOW) delivers Monday through Saturday to more than 460 residents, from the financially disadvantaged to those recovering from injury, regardless of ability to pay. The Meals on Wheels program has had New College volunteers in the past, around five per week usually, but did not in 2013.
“We are hoping that during ISP or next semester we will be able to get it going,” Mroz commented. “We will try to do it weekly.” Students are needed to help specifically with the delivery of meals. Typically they carpool with a few others and are assigned a delivery route once weekly, or whenever they can spare the time. Mroz commented that it can be beneficial to students not only as an opportunity to give back, but can also be a smart move in terms of future hire-ability.
“Whenever nonprofits are looking to hire people, they’re going to go with the people who have volunteered, who have the experience, who they know are committed to the organization, and who they know in person,” Mroz commented. “As someone who is very interested in working in the non-profit industry, it is just as competitive as everywhere else in terms of getting a job. Any experience that you can get, the better it is going to be for you. If you want to pursue that as a career you need to get out and meet people. The people who you want to hire you need to know your face.” An interest meeting was conducted Thursday, Nov. 19, with another to be held during the first week of ISP.
Students can also participate in the annual Adopt-a-Family program of Manatee County. Adopt-a-Family has been helping families for 32 years, providing gifts for over 1,500 families and 4,500 children each year. New College, over the course of eleven years, has donated to 44 families and 122 children and is currently buying gifts for 12 children.
“For anybody on campus, it just feels good to give back and to do something for other people,” said President’s Office Staff Senior Administrative Assistant Michelle Wilbur. The families register with the Salvation Army who distributes the families among the community and then the gifts are dropped off back at the Salvation Army. Wilbur commented that support for the program has lessened, noting that she has only heard from one or two students so far, but mentioned that the same trend applies to more than just student involvement and donations. “People usually give late, everything does not have to be in until the 8th, and there is usually a rush at the end… but we always make it.” Details for specific children gifts needed can be found in emails sent by Wilbur and should be dropped off in Cook Hall 204 by Monday, Dec. 8.
New College participated in a food drive from Nov. 10 through Nov. 20, but opportunities to donate food to those in need is not limited to this event or even the holiday season.
“It has been going on a long long time and we have always participated,” Community Engagement and Volunteerism Director Konnie Kruczek said. “Last year we did a food drive in May as well because summer is a time when a lot of kids go hungry. They’re not in school getting free lunch and free breakfast, so this year I hope we can really put more of an effort into contributing.” Kruczek pointed out that Goodwill takes donations anytime of year and offered to take anything students wish to donate to the appropriate place if students drop them off in HCL 4. Kruczek noted that as far as donations, the Social Sciences faculty can be praised for giving the most.
“I want students to get involved whenever they see Lacy or myself putting something together, to come out and volunteer,” she said. “There will be lots of opportunities in January for students to do and try some new things.”
Students interested in volunteering with Meals on Wheels can contact Mroz at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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