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.'"