CSU students are participating in National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week
Charleston Southern University students are participating in National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, the third week in November, an endeavor by the National Coalition for the Homeless to promote education, action and awareness about hunger and homelessness.
Julie Jongsma, Charleston Southern’s VISTA service learning coordinator, has planned a week’s worth of activities to highlight the needs of the homeless and hungry for CSU students. “We want to open students’ eyes to see the needs in the Charleston community, to make them aware, and then to engage them to choose to go out and serve in different ways.”
Charleston Southern University’s vision is integrating faith in learning, leading and serving. Service is a vital part of the Charleston Southern education. Last year, CSU students contributed 74,467 hours of service, earning a spot for the third time on The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
Events planned at Charleston Southern Nov. 18-23 are designed to increase awareness and provide students with an opportunity for service:
• Monday, Nov. 18, homelessness documentary “It’s a Great Day in South Carolina?” will be shown. Admission is three canned goods or $2, which will be donated to the Lowcountry Food Bank.
• Tuesday, Nov. 19, CSU students will be serving at the Summerville Habitat Restore from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
• Thursday, Nov. 21, Operation Christmas Child Packing Party will be at 8 p.m. in the dining hall. Students are planning to pack 2,000 shoeboxes which go to needy children around the world. Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse. Last fall, CSU students packed more than 1,000 boxes.
• Friday, Nov. 22-23, Sleep Out for the Homeless, begins at 7 p.m. on Friday and ends at 7 a.m. Saturday. Phi Beta Sigma is organizing a cardboard mansion competition; students will build cardboard shelters where they will spend the night. No pillows or sleeping bags are allowed at the event. Students will also collect clothes to donate to The Beacon Shelter and canned goods and donations for Lowcountry Food Bank.
“Increasing the awareness and plight of America's homeless population while underscoring gratitude for the blessings of a shelter we often take for granted is the core of this initiative,” said Dr. Rick Brewer, vice president for student affairs and athletics. “Students will be reminded that homelessness is not only a distant, big city problem but is very much part of the greater Charleston area. Certainly we hope we can ignite the minds and hearts of a generation of emerging leaders to become passionately concerned about fellow human beings who struggle from day to day and determine to identify solutions and a Christ-filled response going forward. Once again we're reminded of the words of Christ in Matthew 25:40, "as much as you've done it unto the least of these you have done it unto me."
CSU students volunteer with several area Habitat for Humanity organizations. Barbi Dingmon, volunteer coordinator for Dorchester County Habitat for Humanity, said, “CSU students are dear to my heart as I’m an alumnus myself (’95, ’08). They are energetic and ready to help no matter what the task. They have made an incredible impact on our ReStore with their positive attitudes and willingness to serve others. Recently, about 20 students came to help us bring down our Christmas décor and items for sale. They worked nonstop for four hours with smiles and contagious laughter.”
Locally, the Lowcountry Food Bank reports that they feed 4,166 children per month through their Kids Café, Back Pack Buddies and School Pantry programs. According to Feeding America’s 2011 report, the food insecurity rate in South Carolina is 18.6 percent, above the national average of 16.4 percent. Feeding America said, “Food insecurity refers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.”
Feeding America estimates that one in six Americans face hunger. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 633,782 people experience homelessness on any given night in the U.S.