Thirty six middle and high school volunteers met at Harvest Hope Food Bank Tuesday to package, sort, and ship donated food to families in need, and to the churches that support them. All students who participated are members of the VA’s Summer Student Volunteer Program.

Dressed in their VA Dorn red t-shirts, students eagerly began their assigned tasks in produce, packaged goods, and frozen foods.

“We have thirty six volunteers in this group,” Chief of Community Relations and Engagement Service Tammy Finney said. “Total kids in the program amounts to 70.” Students range in ages from 13 to 17.

How does the VA get the word out to recruit these young volunteers? “We alert our workers at the VA,” said Robert Kappell of the VA’s Volunteer Services. “A good number of our volunteers have parents who are VA employees.”

School guidance counselors are another key source for volunteers. The VA asks for 120 hours of committed service, which helps students fulfill their community service hour requirement for high school graduation. However, service hours are not the only reason the young volunteers dedicate their summer hours to the cause. Many mentioned they felt the desire to give back to the community, and to honor the sacrifices of veterans.

Joseph Toe, a rising freshman at Spring Valley High School, said his mother encouraged him to apply for the program. Tyler Jackson, a rising sophomore at Westwood High School, also was encouraged by his mom. For a number of students, Tuesday’s outing wasn’t their first time at Harvest Hope. Ethan Hall, an upcoming junior at Chapin High School, said this is his third time to work as a volunteer. Dana DeVeaux, a rising Dreher High School senior, echoed that comment. She added that both her parents in the past have also pitched in.

Harvest Hope is just one activity that keeps these young adults busy. They also help veterans at the Dorn center in physical therapy, surgical preparation, and outpatient services.

Categories: Columbia, Military, Richland County

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