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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Students give back to the homeless on Global Youth Service Day

“Good afternoon, my name is Jason,” the student began.

And with that, Jason and another Bancroft Elementary School poet-athlete, standing on the doorstep of a Mount Pleasant home, read their script to the homeowner, introducing themselves, stating that “over 600,000 people in DC are at risk of or experiencing hunger, and over 50,000 kids,” and then making their ask: “Is your house willing to donate any canned or boxed food to help solve the hunger crisis?”

Jason’s knock was the first to elicit a response on Monday, but it was far from the last. During two-plus hours, in the rain, roughly 75 students from Bancroft, Tubman Elementary School and Noyes Education Campus canvassed the neighborhood around Bancroft as part of Global Youth Service Day -- the largest service event in the world, established in 1988, that mobilizes millions of youth to improve their communities. The effort in DC was led by Serve DC.

Monday's project -- pushed back from Sunday because of rain -- was called “DC SCORES Against Hunger!” and involved collecting as many cans, cereals, pastas, tacos and more (you name it!) to support the organization So Others Might Eat (SOME), which has served the homeless in the District for the past 40 years.

The event was led by the three schools’ coaches, many of whom are DC SCORES AmeriCorps members. Other AmeriCorps coaches also helped the effort, which netted approximately 300 pounds of food.

For the participants, the event was a chance to give back and gain the satisfaction that comes with making a tangible difference in the lives of others. It was a warm-up for their service-learning projects to better their respective school communities this spring.

As I followed a group of 11 Noyes poet-athletes down Newton Street, I observed an increasing enthusiasm as the doors they knocked on began to elicit responses with homeowners returning from work.

After receiving cans from a third consecutive house, one student exclaimed, “Now we’re making progress!”

Upon returning to school with their two bags packed with goods, giving a pair of students one heck of a shoulder workout, another student said, “We made a difference, a huge difference.”

But the work wasn’t quite done.

Once the food had been collected, students sat down in the Bancroft cafeteria to craft letters to the homeless families who will receive the food. One of the students wrote: “We’re giving you food because we’re sad and we want you to have it because we love you.”

When the work was done, the students completed an active afternoon by playing soccer games against each other on Bancroft’s small field and making smoothies with Brainfood DC volunteers.

In one of the coolest food-making stations you’ll ever see, Brainfood set up a stationary bike with a blender attached, somehow, to the back wheel so that as students took turns pedaling, a delicious smoothie was made.

Pedaling a smoothie, it truly was.

The homeless families served by SOME likely won’t receive such smoothies, but thanks to the efforts of students on Monday -- who ignored the rain and could be heard shouting “That’s it? We should go down that block!” -- they’ll receive a boatload of food and encouraging letters.

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