By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
9:15 PM EST, January 21, 2013
Shepherd University junior Darren House believed his time volunteering Monday at the Martinsburg Boys & Girls Club was “a small step” in helping the community.
“I think it would be nice to do more throughout the year,” said House, who took part in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day service project to teach young children about healthy lifestyles and helping others.
A member of the college’s Multicultural Leadership Team, House and more than two dozen other Shepherd University students partnered with the Burke Street Promise Neighborhood Initiative and the Catholic Campus Ministry at Shepherd University to help children at the club learn the following:
• Cooking with herbs
• How to stuff and tie no-sew pillows for an infusion clinic
• Assemble “necessity” kits containing travel size toiletries for area homeless. The club hosted a two-hour open house for the community Monday afternoon with face painting and other activities.
The children were able to sample mint tea made without sugar, baby carrots lathered in vegetable dip made with Greek yogurt and chives, and learn about the smells of other herbs used in cooking. Each child was able to take a freshly potted mint plant home with them.
The creamy dip was a hit with Dakota Hopkins, 11, and Ke’Ia Williams, 12, of Martinsburg.
“It was delicious,” Dakota said. “I’m having total fun. This whole day has been fantastic.”
Ke’Ia wasn’t too fond of the tea, particularly the lack of sweetness, but rattled off a number of things she had learned about eating healthier and helping others.
During the open house, the club was able to show off more than $75,000 in recently completed capital improvements in the gymnasium, which was painted after roof windows were repaired and replaced and insulation was installed to make the building more efficient.
Funding for the project was provided by the city of Martinsburg and federal money channeled through the city’s Community Development Block Grant program.
The community outreach was a lot of fun for Shepherd University sophomore Taylor Simpson.
“The kids are great,” said Simpson, who recalled her own experience of being helped as a teen after being kicked out of the house by her parents.
“There’s just so much need,” Simpson said.
Aside from the activities at the Boys & Girls Club, members of Shepherd’s volleyball team volunteered at area nonprofit organizations and students also helped serve meals to the community at Immanuel’s House in Martinsburg.
Rachel Crum, an Americorps VISTA, serving as community services coordinator at Shepherd University, said members of the Multicultural Leadership Team are an “elite” group of students who love to volunteer and work with young people.
“This interaction with the community is just wonderful,” Crum said.
In his fourth year with the group, Shepherd senior Shane Lowery said he first saw the Multicultural Leadership Team as an opportunity to get scholarship money, but quickly learned there was a lot more to it.
“It’s really enlightening,” Lowery said.
Kate Didden of Catholic Campus Ministries said her organization’s participation with the event this year was a first, but fitting since they share the service-oriented mission.
“We’re very happy to support them,” said Didden, who provided resources for the herb activity.
Bassell Franks of Shepherd University’s Multicultural Student Affairs Office said the student-driven service project also received significant support through the Promise Neighborhood Initiative, which is backed by United Way of the Eastern Panhandle.
“They helped us out with a lot of supplies,” Franks said.
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