Students end summer break by volunteering

Sunday, August 17, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- While summer is winding down for many children, there are several who plan to make one last stop at the Samaritan Center before heading back to school.

Volunteering has become a Monday morning routine for a number of local children and their grandparents as they help with food distribution.

"I like helping people and meeting up with the friends that I have made here," said 12-year-old Matthew Maasen.

Matthew, his brother, Ashton, and cousin, Jeremey, have been volunteering their summers at the Samaritan Center for the past three years.

They come in because they want to, not because their grandparents made them.

The clan arrives at 8:30 a.m. and gathers in the break room for coffee and doughnuts.

The grandparents sit while the children begin work, picking up right where they left off last week.

The food available this week included donated produce, sliced potatoes, bread, chicken and condiments. School supplies and many other items also were distributed.

Since the beginning of the year, nearly 80 families per week have turned to the Samaritan Center's pantry to receive food and other household items.

"I didn't know that so many people needed this," said Maasen.

Shortly before the doors open, both the adult and youth volunteers gather around and hold hands for a short prayer.

While the children wait patiently in the break room to hear "order up," people start to pour in.

The attendees mark off what they will not need. The list is sent to the volunteers who pack the food in boxes. They hand the boxes to other volunteers and help carry them out to cars.

From small bags for elderly people to three to four boxes at a time for larger families, the children direct each other and make sure they always are available.

The process continues for about two or three hours.

"It feels real good to know you are helping people," said 13-year-old Emily Tighe.

Whether they are loading items into cars or helping the volunteers prepare the boxes, the youth volunteers never sit still.

The children will return to school and begin the school year knowing they have helped dozens of families in their community.

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