PITTSBURG — Seniors in the social work program at Pittsburg State University gathered Wednesday at Russ Hall to present the results of service projects they have worked on over the past semester.
“They have a wide range of projects that they do,” said Kristen Humphrey, director of the social work program. “They have some instructions that include ‘Do something that you’re passionate about.’ So their very first step is to think about a social issue that they really care about.” Projects then focus on raising money or other kinds of donations for a local agency, charitable group, or other organization that benefits a community. Most are very successful. One student set a goal this year to collect 200 cans of food for a food pantry in her hometown, for example, and ended up collecting more than 2,000, Humphrey said.
“To me it looks like they were all successful,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Howard Smith, who stopped by the service projects presentation. “They met their goals and I think because of what they did, people are going to benefit.”
One student, Courtney Umphenour, raised money for foster services provider TFI Family Services Inc. to fund a movie night for foster families and used extra money raised to pay for Christmas presents for the children.
“It was just a night where they didn’t have to worry about money at all,” Umphenour said. “They were able to go there, enjoy the movie, I paid for their popcorn and a drink for them, and they all showed up and they absolutely loved it, and it was a great night for them.”
Another student, Allyson Bence, solicited donations of hygiene products for students who are aging out of foster care. Bence, who aged out of foster care herself and surpassed her goal for the number of hygiene products collected, said she was glad about the outcome of the project.
“I’m glad that I had a lot of people support the project and donate,” she said.
Darryel Neel organized a “Party for PALS” concert at Ballers Sports Bar and Grill in Parsons in November to benefit the Proud Animal Lovers Shelter (PALS) in Parsons. Event attendees donated either money or items such as dog food, paper towels and 13-gallon trash bags to help the shelter with its mission of helping animals.
“We talked about making it an annual event,” Neel said. “So I’ll be doing it again next year,” he said — even though it won’t be for a grade next time around.
Christian Dowling’s project was a clothes drive to collect items for the Storehouse, which provides free clothing to community members and is operated by Covenant Harvest Church, a non-denominational church in Pittsburg.
Dowling collected almost three times as many donated clothing items as he had set for his goal for the project.
“To me, doing this clothes drive opened my eyes to the fact that there are people in need, and that we’re perfectly equipped with everything we have and all we’ve been taught to help these people,” he said. “I’m happy that we were given this opportunity.”