By: Leah Jackson, Northwestern News Bureau
    Northwestern has partnered with a non-profit organization to encourage students to spend one day per week engaged in volunteer work or service to others.
    “The concept is to pick one day and do something for someone else, as you can” Reatha Cox, director of First Year Experience and Leadership Development, told students during an informational meeting to explain the intent behind, a program developed by NSU alum Kip Patrick that encourages people to commit to doable tasks that benefit others. “Our goal is for every student at NSU to start thinking of service and doing for others.” 
    Patrick, who was guest speaker at this year’s New Student Convocation, and his wife developed 1 of 7 as a result of their experiences picking up trash, tutoring and engaging in other service projects at home and during their extensive travels. Patrick has travelled to more than 70 countries and completed some kind of service work in most of them.
    “Being kind can start a chain reaction of positivity,” Patrick explains. “Being kind to others may lead them to be grateful and generous to others, who in turn are grateful and kind to others.”
    Cox said each student has individual talents that can be tailored towards service to others. (Below: A bracelet students will be wearing this semester to show their commitment to volunteering).

    For it’s first project, the student group will meet at 1 p.m. Friday and travel to the Robeline Food Pantry, a facility that serves as many as 250 families per year, to sweep, clean, paint and sort as pantry volunteers prepare to box meals for distribution. Future projects could include packing boxes for the military, packing hygiene kits for the homeless or participating in canned food drives, said Cox, who is compiling a list of charitable service opportunities in the Natchitoches area.
    “We want the students to use their talents in a meaningful way. We think of service as doing something where other people see us,” Cox said. “We want to think of service as doing something just because it needs to be done.”

    Ninety Northwestern State University students rolled up their sleeves last week and put themselves to work at the Robeline Food Pantry.

    The event was a 1 of 7 project that encourages students to pledge one day a week to helping others, performing service activities or volunteering in ways that improve the world around them.  

    The food pantry was a hive of activity with students cleaning out freezers, tearing out and removing metal shelving to be recycled, cleaning the building's exterior walls and roof, burning refuse and moving larges boxes of bulk food items to sort and prepare for distribution.  

    Established 14 years ago as an outreach of Triune Ministries, the Robeline Food Pantry serves as many as 250 people per month and recently began making deliveries to shut-ins.  

    Paula Jarvis whose husband John established the ministry said, "We are so thankful and so blessed that these young people are helping us. It shows their hearts and their compassion and giving nature.  It's a wonderful outlet for them to come and serve and it's wonderful for us to be on the receiving end." 

    The activity was the first opportunity for students to get involved with NSU's partnership with 1 of 7, a program developed by NSU alum Kip Patrick in which individuals commit to completing doable service or volunteer tasks one day a week. 

    Student Julia Berry of Lafayette is no stranger to volunteering through her involvement with NSU's Presidential Leadership Program, Phi Mu and other campus activities. 
    Berry said, "We try to give back. People may think that Greek life is all about parties, but we do a lot for the community and give back to the university."   

    The push to engage students in 1 of 7 was incorporated into NSU's Welcome Week activities, chaired by Matt Spence of Houma, Taylor Layman of St. Gabriel and Jack Fletcher of Bunkie, who all participated in last week's unglamorous work at the food pantry. 

    Reatha Cox, NSU's director of First Year Experience and Leadership Development, said since last Friday's event, students have participated in a blood drive and met with NSU's Director of Service Learning Steve Gruesbeck about a recycling program. 

     Cox said, "We have encouraged students to explore and research their interests and passion.  Next week, there will be 150 bags to stuff for the homeless."

    Cox has also been approached about recruiting students to volunteer with the Wings Over Natchitoches Aerobatic Show, the Meat Pie Triathlon and activities coordinated through the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. 

     Cox said, "The student feedback from the food pantry visit has been so positive.  The one question many have asked is 'When are we going back?  There is a lot more to do there.'"

    If someone asked you to give up your Saturday mornings for the next seven years, would you do it?
    Not many of us would. Yet, that's what the tall, shaggy Scotsman Graeme King has done since he began volunteering with the nonprofit Food For All in Washington, DC back in 2007. Virtually every weekend since, he's been working with volunteers and helping deliver food to people who need it most in the nation's capital.

    We first met Graeme about a year ago after finding his organization via our well-tested volunteer-search methodology. On that fateful Saturday and many since then, we've joined Graeme and fellow Food For All volunteers to bag and deliver groceries bound for people who aren't able to afford or can't physically travel to purchase food themselves. Food for All has become our 'go to' volunteer spot, and Graeme has taught us a lot about the dedication it takes to commit to a single organization each week.
    Despite all the busy weekends, Graeme says he loves working with Food For All, which he does in addition to his day job as an IT Consultant at the Corporation for National and Community Service.
    "When I showed up that first Saturday so long ago, I never imagined I'd be doing this every week," Graeme told us, in the thick accent of his Scottish homeland, "but I love the people I volunteer with, and it feels good to know I'm working with an organization that's making a positive difference in the lives of so many DC residents." 
    In addition to helping organize the Saturday volunteer events, Graeme also manages Food for All's website and social media presence, as well as recruit volunteers for the weekly grocery packing and delivery sessions.
    We've spent many Saturday mornings with Food For All over the last year, and for us, the deliveries are the most rewarding part. Many of Food For All's "clients," live in some of Washington's toughest neighborhoods. Yet despite their surroundings, the recipients are some of the most gracious, thankful people in the city. We even get a few hugs on our Saturday delivery runs, a nice bonus to an already rewarding day. Volunteers have the opportunity to meet new people and see a new part of DC they'd never see otherwise. 
    "That's one of the things that attracted me to Food for All -- getting to know the people we're helping," King says. "Even if I'm having a tough week at my day job it gives me something to look forward to every Saturday.
    For those interested in giving back, sign up to volunteer on the Food For All website. They can accommodate groups as well. It's one of the most rewarding things you can do on a Saturday morning in the District.
    Plus, you get to meet Graeme.

    Seven years ago, an over-served bartender handed Kip what looked like a treasure map sketched out on a wrinkled cocktail napkin. The cryptic drawing, the guy solemnly swore, would direct the holder to what he called his "secret swimmin' hole," described as a water-filled granite quarry in rural West Virginia, known only to a few other lucky souls. 
    Kip and said bartender had spent the previous hour swapping travel stories, which focused mostly on the best places in the world to jump off high cliffs into water (one of Kip's favorite past times).  Somehow, Kip charmed said bartender into giving up a closely-held secret - the location of the quarry a mere two hours from DC, with a boulder to launch from into the water 60 feet below.
    And so, our story begins...
    The first trip out, we never found the place. And we looked hard. The next time, still cursing the bartender, we re-studied the drawing, trekking down a railroad track, traversing an overgrown field and sweating through thick underbrush until we stumbled onto what looked like a rabbit trail. We followed it until the narrow path opened up into a small clearing, blocked off by thick vines on one side and a massive boulder on the other. As we stood upright and creeped forward, we saw an opening that slowly widened as we got closer. As we walked up to what became a cliff, we looked out across a green pool shrouded by trees and vines and shouldered by steep granite and we knew we’d found the spot.
    But this story isn’t so much about the quarry itself. It’s actually about how garbage can ruin one of the most unique places on the planet.
    It seems that quite a few people had found this secret spot before us, and sadly, they didn’t live by the “leave no trace” mentality.
    So for the past few years, Kip and his friends Adam, Alex, and Nick have made an annual pilgrimage to the quarry, primarily to jump from the cliffs, swing from the rope swing and try to capture a youth that’s not that far removed from any of them (at least mentally). But when they’re done playing, they spend some quality time filling garbage bags until the place looks, at least, a little less discovered. It lets everyone give back a little, which is what it’s all about, really. That and jumping off cliffs and living to tell about it.
    Big thanks to Adam, Alex and Nick for joining the clean up! We're looking forward to the next one!

    Like the well-known hair stylist in New York who gives free haircuts to homeless people, using an existing skill to help others can be an easy and fun way to do something nice.
    As Kip found out, you don't even have to be a pro at something to help out a friend. Maybe you just have a nice camera, some free time and a buddy who needs an engagement photo!
    Congrats to Adam and Lauren on your upcoming wedding! 
    And btw, the photo above was NOT the official engagement photo, but it looked so cheesy we had to put it up here. The real one's below:


    Liz had a week in between her old job ending and the new one beginning, so we planned a trip to Cartagena, Colombia, a spot we missed on our trip but have long wanted to check out.
    Unfortunately, when we got to the airport at 4 AM to catch our flight, Spirit Air cancelled it, leaving us stranded. With few options that didn't involve missing our entire trip, we decided to hop a flight later that day to Cancun, Mexico. Not quite Colombia, but close enough for us.
    After touch down, we headed south for Tulum in a hatchback rental car that had seen better days. We explored the Mayan ruins nearby, found a cheap hotel, then set our sights on Majahual, motoring down the coast. The road hugged the Caribbean, showing off periodic glimpses of the turquoise waters that make the area famous.
    Once in Majahual we checked out the town and quickly decided to look for someplace a little more remote down the coast toward Belize. A few miles after the pavement ended, we found Hotel Maya Luna, a property of tiny bungalows, complete with an empty beach, vacant hammocks, and a resident dog named Dinga. Liz's new favorite pet.
    We were all set for a few days of complete nothingness. Or so we thought. 

    After a nap in one of the hammocks and a rum drink accompanied by a passing storm, we took a walk down the white sand. And unfortunately, as with so many of the beaches we've encountered on our travels, plastic littered the views.
    The next morning at sunrise, we set out, with Liz's new canine friend in tow, to get in our weekly 1 of 7. The next day we did the same.
    That remote beach was yet one more reason we decided to join with the Surfrider Foundation in its "Rise Above Plastics" campaign and encourage people to use less plastic. The world's beaches are covered with bottles, packaging and all sorts of other floating debris -- and it's all made of plastic. But you don't have to visit a remote beach in Mexico to join the effort. Check out these 10 ways to use less plastic every day. And do what you can to use less plastic. The world's beaches and its beachgoers will be glad you did. 

    TVs. Toaster ovens. Laptops. Running shoes. Bicycle tires. 
    These are just a few of the discarded items we picked up during this year's Rock Creek Park Extreme Clean Up
    One of the largest city park's in the country, Washington's Rock Creek Park runs from the northern tip of DC down to the Potomac River just a mile from the White House. It's an urban getaway, home to hardwood forests, hiking trails, steep ravines, rushing water and plenty of deer and birds. 
    Surprisingly, it's also home to trash. And lots of it. Which is why the Rock Creek Park Conservancy every spring hosts its annual Extreme Clean Up, featuring trash pickups at more than 50 locations along the 33 mile length of Rock Creek.  
    Together with a few recruits helpful 1 of 7 recruits, we joined the Conservancy for this year's event, helping clean up an area of the park of the park near the Adams Morgan neighborhood (see photos from our work at last year's Extreme Clean-Up).
    Thanks to everyone who came out to join, especially David G (above with Liz), Jordan B (below), Matt, and Brian. 

    Yes, that's a toaster oven Kip's carrying. 

    If you're in the DC area next spring, don't miss the Rock Creek Park Extreme Clean Up. It's a rewarding, fun way to spend a few hours getting to know one of the nation's finest city parks. Plus, you never know what you'll find.


    Help the Points of Light Foundation and 1 of 7 celebrate National Volunteer Week from April 6-12. 
    Need some idea? Peruse our site, or check out the Points of Light page for ideas. 

    THIS WEEK'S 1 OF 7: Spring is finally here! For most of us that means warmer temperatures, flowering trees, and happier humans (yayyy!). It's also the perfect time to do some serious spring cleaning.

    This week, dig into those closets and cabinets, climb around the attic, go deep in the garage and get rid of all that stuff you no longer need and/or haven't used in a while. When you're done, pack it all up and donate it to a nonprofit in your area. Your house will be cleaner, you'll be doing something good, and you can even save money by scoring a nice tax write-off. Need tips? Here are a few on donating clothes and finding an organization to donate stuff to.

    EXTRA CREDIT: Have a yard sale and donate the money to your favorite charity. Extra bonus--convince your neighbors to spring clean and join the sale!

    ALTERNATIVE: You really expect us to believe you're totally clutter free?! If you really are, then you're our hero. Help family or a friend de-clutter their place and donate the stuff afterward.


    If donating one pint of blood can save three lives, how many lives can 10 gallons save? 
    No, this isn't a fourth grade math problem. It's a legitimate question, at least if we're talking about the blood donating habits of former school principal and Sunday School teacher Larry Patrick. 

    Above, 10-Gallon Donor Larry Patrick shows off his mugs and his Mardi Gras Krewe T-Shirt from the LifeShare Blood Center in Louisiana.

    A resident of Converse, La., Larry--aka, Papa to his granddaughters Izzy and Chelsea--has been donating blood and saving lives for years. The nurses at the LifeShare Blood Center know him by name and expect his visit at least once a month. 
    Larry can't honestly remember how many times he's donated blood, although he did find a "10 Gallon Donor" coffee mug in his kitchen cabinets. 
    So if we take the number of pints in a gallon (8) and multiply that by the number of gallons Larry's donated, the former math teacher could say he's saved 240 lives (8 x 10 x 3=240). 
    Of course, he'd never say something like that. Bragging isn't his forte, unless of course he's talking about his grandbabies. He would, however, encourage other people to get out and donate blood. 
    So why not join Larry and help celelbrate American Red Cross Month by donating blood?
    Save a life. Save three. And you can even call it your "1 of 7" for this week. Click here to find a donation center near you.
    And don't forget to follow 1 of 7 on Twitter and Facebook

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