Concord’s Bonner Scholars Serve Homeless in Washington, D.C.
Athens, W.Va. – Freshmen in the Concord University Bonner Scholars Program recently participated in the annual freshman service trip to Washington, D.C. Students who participated served the homeless May 17 through May 22.
“We’ve taken our freshmen on an end-of-year service trip to Washington, D.C., for the past five years,” said Kathy Ball, director of the service-based scholarship program. “Each year we’ve worked with agencies that feed the hungry and homeless, and each year has been an eye-opening experience for the students.”
The students prepared food at the D.C. Central Kitchen and Thrive D.C.—two agencies that provide meals to the homeless. In addition, they did spring cleaning at Food & Friends, an agency that provides meals to people living with HIV/AIDS and other illnesses and the Central Union Mission, which provides shelter, food, and other services. The students also participated in the “Vendor for a Day” program with the Street Sense newspaper.
Street Sense newspaper is an “empowerment” project that features articles and artwork created by the homeless and their advocates. It is sold by those who are homeless—who sell the paper as “vendors”—as a means to raise income without panhandling.
As a “vendor for a day,” the students sold the paper from street corners of downtown Washington.
“Working for Street Sense showed me that the number one issue at the heart of this problem is apathy,” said Ashleigh Gill of Hinton.
In addition, students prepared meals and delivered them to the homeless in McPherson and Franklin Squares in downtown Washington.
“When we passed out lunches at the park an older man at the park look as if he were about to cry all because we stopped and said ‘hi’ and noticed him,” said Jennifer Bowman, a freshmen from Lewisburg.
Some of those they met agreed to share their stories in videos created by the students. In return for sharing their stories, the interviewee received cash.
All in all, Ball says that the trip is an eye opener and inspiration to students to become more educated on the issues. “I think, because we don’t see so many homeless people living on the streets in West Virginia, that students just don’t comprehend the magnitude of the problem in our country,” she said. “In Washington, they get to see in a very close and personal way what homelessness can do to an individual or a family.”
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, one percent of the population of Washington, D.C., is homeless.
Many students come away frustrated about the lack of compassion related to the issue of homelessness.
“I think the biggest stumbling block for the homeless is the fact that there is a lack of compassion among the human race. Just a smile or a kind word could brighten their day, and maybe one positive thinker can trigger more positive things for someone,” said Kayleigh Phillips, a freshmen from Pecks Mill.
As a result of the trip, many students made commitments to help the homeless throughout the summer.
“I am going to donate clothes to one of the homeless shelters in Dayton, Ohio,” said Tad Binkley of Brookville, Ohio. “I will also give some bagged lunches in Dayton to some of the homeless people.”
“One thing that is a huge problem is the fact that not many people realize how big issue homelessness is,” said Kelly Davis of Narrows, Va. “So I will help to raise awareness about the problem.”
“After these experiences, it will be hard for me to pass up a homeless person without giving. If I have nothing to give I will at least talk to the homeless person,” said Charlea Reed of LeRoy.
Freshmen Bonner Scholars who participated were: Brittany Altizer of Princeton, Jonathan Barnett of Kimball, Tad Binkley of Brookville, Ohio, Jennifer Bowman of Lewisburg, Jordan Cole of Pembroke, Va., Kelly Davis of Narrows, Va., Robert Furey of Glen Daniel, Ashleigh Gill of Hinton, Andrea Graham of Washington, Miranda Mullins of Jolo, Kayleigh Phillips of Pecks Mill, Tanner Redden of Dickson, Tenn., Charlea Reed of LeRoy, Heath Sevy of Glen Daniel, Eric Thomas of Leivasy, and Brittany Wright of Cowen.
Upperclassmen Bonner Scholars who served as student leaders for the trip were: Ryan Bradley of Greenville, Danielle Hepler of Covington, Va., Kayla Mabry of Welch, and Amber McCoy of Wilmington, Del.
They were joined by the Director of the Bonner Scholars program, Kathy Ball, and Jesse Call, a worker with AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) with the Bonner House for Campus-Wide Community Service.
The Bonner Scholars Program at Concord is funded through an endowment from the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation in Princeton, N.J. The funds provide stipends to around 40 students per year in exchange for work performed through civic or community organizations. Concord is the only public college or university in the country selected to participate in the Bonner Scholars Program.