Students volunteered at a monthly food pantry Saturday to serve Madison individuals facing homelessness. The pantry at First United Methodist Church provides students an opportunity to give back to their community.
The pantry has had to adjust several times over the course of the pandemic. Now, one of the unique ways it helps the community is by hosting a food pantry for people experiencing homelessness. The walk-and-drive-up pantry had its third and busiest day on Saturday.
Nicole Meyer, the Housing Equity Intern at the Social Justice Hub, coordinates the student volunteers for the food pantry.
“I wanted to get students more involved in the community,” Meyer said. “Homelessness is a big problem here and I feel like people don't know that.”
The third Saturday of each month is a chance for those student volunteers to help the community for a few hours by taking food orders and carrying groceries out to people’s cars. It also gives them the chance to interact face-to-face with the people they are serving.
“One of the guys wrote ‘God bless and thank you’ on my sheet. It’s small stuff like that,” student volunteer Josh Baillargeon said. “It helps put things in perspective, how fortunate we are. It’s humbling for me.”
Student volunteers were at the pantry to take grocery lists and fulfill them from the downstairs pantry but would jump at the chance to help in any way they can, even by heeding calls for dog treats and women’s boots.
“Whenever you get to do hands on work, even just packing something, it feels like you're doing something,” student volunteer Shreya Bandyopadhyay said. “It's really cool to feel like you're one part of that collective action.”
FUMC works with several other area churches and serves those who are homeless at their food pantry. People drove up, filled out a list and then waited in their cars while volunteers headed to the basement to pack the groceries.
While student volunteer Kareena Clendening sees the homeless populations on State Street, Clendening believes this was an opportunity for her to learn more.
“It just gives you context and backstories of what's happening in their lives and it kind of makes you think a little bit more,” Clendening said.