Taking time to make a difference

Freshman Zoila Primo’s zipped up coat and visible breath was not due to an early winter. The volunteer was working in a frozen warehouse, packaging food for the less fortunate this past weekend.

Primo, who was taping together broken bags of frozen meat, vegetables and potatoes, was one of 12 students who volunteered Saturday afternoon at the Capital Area Food Bank in Northeast D.C. for Make a Difference Day.

The GW Office of Community Service’s Neighbors Project sent students to volunteer at a number of sites around the District; students did everything from participating in Saturday’s AIDS Walk to cleaning parks.

“I used to do something just like this in high school; I was a lot better with the tape back then,” said Primo, who decided to go on the four-hour trip after seeing a poster for Make a Difference Day on a Thurston Hall bulletin board.

The group of 12 food bank volunteers followed senior Ben Spears, trip organizer and Neighbors Project coordinator, to a nondescript one-story building in a residential section of working-class Brookland neighborhood. A staff member at the Capital Area Food Bank took the students inside and showed them a 10-minute video about homelessness in the D.C. area.

In the dingy, 48,000-square-foot warehouse, the volunteers sorted everything from fresh corn to raw bacon and repaired or replaced torn bags.

“Hearing that one-third of the kids living in D.C. live in hunger while we pay $50,000 a year to go to school really puts things in perspective,” said freshman Erin Hohlfelder while transferring frozen French fries from a torn paper bag into a Ziploc sack. “It’s amazing that there can be such economic diversity in one city.”

Freshman Laila Khalid, who separated food into various boxes in the cold warehouse, said her participation in Make a Difference Day was satisfying and worthwhile.

“Next time I’ll drag my roommate,” she said.

As he put down his last box in a tall stack and took off his gloves, freshman Matt Silverman said he thought the trip was a success.

“I had a really good time. I think we worked well as a team,” he said.

Sophomore Stephanie Adams said she took the trip because she wanted a “hands-on” activity.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said on the Metro ride back to campus. “I felt like I had actually contributed to the community.”

Spears said he thought the day went well because the group had a clear task and was enthusiastic.

“The toughest thing about coordinating service efforts is satisfying the concise needs of both the agencies and the students,” he said.

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