Salem students collect for food bank on Halloween
A group of Salem College students put a new spin on a time-honored Halloween tradition last week.
About 15 members of the college’s Rotaract Club donned colorful costumes and dispersed to three neighborhoods on the evening of Halloween to “trick-or-treat” for canned goods and nonperishable food items to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank.
“I am looking forward to it. It seems like a really interesting idea, a unique way to get nonperishable food and things,” freshman Shannon Salzman said. “In the past, I’ve seen drives where you just ask for donations, but this is different in the sense where we’re going out to them.”
A college chapter of Rotary International, Rotaract is a community service created to “to provide an opportunity for young women to address the physical and social needs of their communities, while maintaining the motto ‘Service above Self,’” organizers say. The organization had been established on the Salem campus some years ago, but had become defunct until current Salem students Barbara Sostaita and Meredith Barnes – both juniors – reinitiated it in 2010.
“We didn’t really have a service organization on campus and we wanted to give the opportunity for students to serve and have different experiences through the club,” explained Barnes, a business administration major and Georgia native.
Sostaita was a member of Rotaract at her alma mater, West Stokes High School, and endeavored to bring the program to Salem when she arrived there.
“Students have always looked for causes and always looked to apply their studies to their actual lives,” said Sosaita, a religious studies/international relations double major from Buenos Aires, Argentina. “Rotaract allows you to have a knowledge that’s applicable and hands-on.”
The club was a hit on campus right away, the women said.
“It started off with just three of us putting everything together,” related Barnes, 20. “We ended up with 50 members in our first year.”
Membership has since ballooned to nearly 100.
“I realized that there was a market for it, and there were students who wanted to be involved and there were lots of opportunities to reach out,” commented Sostaida, 20. “(But) we didn’t realize how explosive the impact of it would be.”
Sophomore communications major Megan Taylor joined the group in 2011.
“I’ve always been big on giving back to the community and just volunteering,” the city native said of her motivation to get involved. “I was a Girl Scout all my life, so that part of serving others was just in me.”
Rotaract members participate in a variety of service initiatives, serving as lunch buddies and mentors at Hall-Woodward Elementary, providing tutors for students at Ward Elementary and volunteering monthly at the Ronald McDonald House, in addition to annual projects such as their Dominican Republic spring break service trip. Two thousand twelve marked the second year Rotaract has staged the trick-or-treating campaign. The group amassed over 300 pounds of food in their inaugural effort.
“It was a really neat experience,” Taylor of the 2011 effort. “It was really surprising to me how many people were willing to give out cans and foods. I don’t think we had a single person not give at least one can, and they were really excited. They were asking if we were going to come back next year. People responded well to it.”
Rotaract members carpooled to neighborhoods in the city for the project, including Jefferson Woods, where Sostaida’s parents live, Sally Kirk Road, near Jefferson Middle School, where Taylor attended as a child, and Allistair Road.
Sophomore Helen Fowowe said she had to miss the event last year because she had a class. She heard positive feedback from members who did participate and was determined to be a part of it this time around.
“You’re going out and you’re bringing a new perspective into something everybody knows about,” remarked the Nigeria native. “This is a young group of women who are saying, ‘We can do more than candy. We can collect food and we can give it to someone who doesn’t have it.’ That’s a really powerful idea.”
The group managed to top their 2011 donations by nearly 50 pounds, bringing in a whopping 345 pounds of food for Second Harvest.