Students, Faculty and Staff Approach End of Semester with Focus on Service
BY JIM MALVEN
When Lori Anderson, Westminster’s student information coordinator, celebrated her birthday last Wednesday, she did not get traditional gifts. Instead, she received what she had requested: nonperishable food items, which she then donated to the Westminster Blue Jay Food Pantry the following day.
“There’s not really anything that I need right now, and I know that there was a great need for food in the food pantry,” said Anderson, who also received and donated two $20 Moser’s gift cards and $10 in cash.
The Blue Jay Food Pantry is a donation-based food supply located in the kitchen and basement of the Center for Faith and Service that provides meals for students not on a school meal plan and those who stay on campus during extended breaks when the dining hall is not open.
Fathimath Shafa, ’18, who said she plans to use the food pantry during the upcoming winter break, called Anderson’s donation “really sweet.”
“Because we have people like her, who always help students here, always think about the students – not just internationals but everybody in general – who will be struggling a little bit with finances and all, that’s one of the reasons I really love Westminster,” Shafa said. “I think we all should be thankful for donations like those.”
Coordinator of Community Engagement and Instructor of Religion Maeba Jonas, whose office is located in the Center for Faith and Service, said “(the donation) truly captures the spirit of the season.”
Anderson is one of many people in the Westminster community who have engaged in charitable initiatives on campus and in the Fulton community during the last few weeks of the semester. In addition to collecting food for the food pantry, the Center for Faith and Service is also coordinating a toy drive for S.E.R.V.E. The Center for Faith and Service announced the toy drive through an email to students, faculty and staff on Tuesday and will accept new, unwrapped donations until 9 p.m. Dec. 12.
Staff members gave the first toys on Friday, and Jonas said that they gave “a good amount.” These donations include stuffed animals, dolls, action figures, puzzles, card games, sidewalk chalk and and rattles.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, several students volunteered at a United-Way-sponsored “Breakfast with Santa” at the Callaway Senior Center. Alexandra Rauscher, ’18, said that after seeing an email about the event from Student Wellness Coordinator Margie Lechner last month, she decided to organize a group of volunteers from her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta. The group consisted of Rauscher, Destri Eichman, ’20, Kaitlin Fitzpatrick, ’17, Kat Griesbach, ’20, Karley Long, ’18, and Emily McCann, ’20.
Long said that she and Griesbach also learned about the event by being members of Westminster’s United Way Student Board.
Rauscher said that she, Fitzpatrick and Long volunteered at craft tables, where she helped children construct Santa Claus masks, and Fitzpatrick and Long assisted in making pine cone bird feeders.
Away from the craft tables, McCann helped take pictures of attendees with a Santa Claus impersonator and Eichman and Griesbach made pancakes.
Admission into the breakfast cost $5 for children ages 4 to 12 and $8 for guests 12 years or older. All proceeds went to the Callaway County United Way. According to Rauscher, more than 100 people attended the event.
However, other attempts at gathering volunteers were not as successful. The Center for Faith and Service sent out a mass email to the Westminster community the week before Thanksgiving advertising a need for volunteers for the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Drive. This opportunity entails ringing bells and collecting monetary donations that go toward helping local families pay their utility bills. When The Columns called the Callaway County Salvation Army on Thursday, no Westminster students had volunteered.
Heading into a new calendar year, Jonas said that she and her colleagues at the Center for Faith and Service, including Rev. Jamie Haskins, have come up with some ideas for new service activities.
First, Jonas said that said Center of Faith and Service workers are exploring new service opportunities around Martin Luther King Day. Because classes will resume the day after Martin Luther King Day next semester, Jonas said that they have decided to turn Westminster’s traditional M.L.K. Day of Service into a weeks-long service pledge in connection with the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri during the first few weeks of the semester.
Jonas also said that she and her colleagues will be creating a new service fellowship for students to apply for during the upcoming semester. The fellowship will involve participation in internships with some of Westminster’s community partners. According to Jonas, the fellowship will allow students to “learn about how to service” and “how to do community organizing.”
“That’s a new initiative that we’re working on — to try to get community partners to then mentor students and work on service projects at the same time,” Jonas said. “Students can get school credit for it, so it will be more like an internship that takes place in the community, so that should be a pretty cool thing.”