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AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service to America members joined Barton College and East Carolina University students for six days of projects to improve the Wilson community.
The college students passed on spending their spring break with their bare feet on a warm Southern beach and instead chose to use that time for volunteer projects.
Virginia Bane, project manager for Wilson Forward and also the AmeriCorps VISTA supervisor in Wilson, said five AmeriCorps VISTA workers, four Barton College students and six ECU students participated.
“Barton College, ECU and the AmeriCorps VISTA program, which is housed out of the United Way here in Wilson, decided to collaborate together in order to bring a week of service here to Wilson,” Bane said.
They offered their support of students at the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Wilson, served meals at the Community Soup Kitchen of Wilson, freshened up the campus at Barton College, served spaghetti dinners at St. Therese Catholic Church, helped second-graders learn to swim for the Wilson Family YMCA and Wilson County Schools and completed other projects around town.
This is the second year the two colleges have joined with AmeriCorps VISTA for a week of service projects.
The group conducted a poverty simulation to see how difficult it is to live on a poverty-level income.
Rebecca Lynn Humphries, a Barton junior psychology major and volunteer, said it can be difficult to realize how tough some people have it.
“We are from a private school, half of us, so we don’t realize how great we have it and serve the community and see the different things that we are able to do that other people aren’t,” Humphries said.
The students completed a VISTA simulation to learn more about AmeriCorps and what VISTA offers.
“This experience is educational for the students,” Bane said. “They understand how they are bettering themselves by going to college and how that can help their futures, but this experience helped to remind them not to forget to help people along the way. Experiences like this help to make them empathetic human beings as they continue to grow into their adulthood.”
On Tuesday night, the volunteers were handing out spaghetti dinners for St. Therese Catholic Church.
“Today we are taking orders as they come in, and we are grabbing hot spaghetti, putting them in bags with little sides that they get, little desserts and things and getting them to the car so they can get home and eat them. We also have a few people working inside serving salads, refills on drinks, spaghetti plates and everything else,” Humphries said.
Samuel Kuhn, an ECU student studying design and architecture, said he just wanted to get more involved with the community.
“I think it is important because our community does so much for us, and it is good to give back to your community,” Kuhn said.
Mariama Abubakri of Greensboro is an AmeriCorps VISTA member working at the Wilson County Health Department on healthy futures.
“Our focus is basically to give the students another way to spend their spring break,” Abubakri said. “We are also focusing on healthy futures for this spring break, so today we went to the OIC and we got to have class with the local students there who were attending GED classes there. They were really, really happy to have us there, and it gave them hope to go further in their careers and in their lives. It’s just one of those small instances where our presence has a large impact and that’s what we are trying to give to the students.”
“We are so thankful to the volunteer sites that were involved in this alternative spring break experience and we are so appreciative of the students, staff and our VISTAs for volunteering their time this week in service to Wilson,” Bane said.