Students' Gifts Help Feed a Community

What would you say to a group of young people who made a decision to give of themselves, give of their time and give of their energy just because they wanted to?

Families in need in the Arkansas River Valley will have a simple yet heartfelt two-word response to that question during Thanksgiving 2010 — thank you. Arkansas Tech University students donated 400 food kits to help the less fortunate during the fourth annual Helping Halls program.

Resident directors from the Arkansas Tech Office of Residence Life helped distribute the food to those in need at the Salvation Army location on Weir Road in Russellville on Monday, Nov. 22.

“We all wanted to cry when the food came in,” said Lt. Ashley Robinett of the Salvation Army. “A week and a half ago our food pantry was empty. Now we have enough to feed the people counting on this food for Thanksgiving and Christmas.” At $11 per kit, the gift represents a $4,400 donation from the pockets of Arkansas Tech students to the community.

The kits include many of the staples of a holiday meal — turkey gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans, stuffing, boxes of mashed potatoes, canned cranberries, pie filling, pie crust and marshmallows.

Every residence hall on campus met or exceeded its goal for the program.

Jones Residence Hall, which had a goal of 19 food kits and collected 80 food kits, was the winner of a competition to see which hall could donate the most.

“I was shocked by the amount of food we collected,” said Melanie Skocy, a graduate assistant from Channahon, Ill., who helped oversee Helping Halls 2010 for the Arkansas Tech Office of Residence Life. “I think it shows how much pride Arkansas Tech students have in the Russellville community and how willing they are to help the community. It was amazing to watch students take $20 bills out of their pockets and give them to this effort.”

Staff members from the Salvation Army collect turkey, ham and chicken to complete each set.

“It is a blessing to be able to provide this food to those who need it,” said Lt. Josh Robinett of the Salvation Army. “I came back from a board meeting and food was everywhere. It was great to see the kids from Arkansas Tech do that for our community.”

The Helping Halls program began in 2007 with a donation of 123 food kits. That number grew steadily in 2008 (176 food kits) and 2009 (235 food kits).

The goal for 2010 was to collect at least 200 food kits and attempt to match the 2009 total.

“It seems each year that we think we will not be able to top the previous year’s total, especially after an awesome year in 2009 with 235 food kits,” said Kevin Solomon, assistant director of housing at Arkansas Tech. “To gather 400 sets is truly amazing. Helping distribute the food is a great way to end Helping Halls because our student staff members get great satisfaction from delivering the food and receiving personal thanks from the people who really need this gift.”

Click here to view some photos from the event.