Freshmen fill service event

A service experience offered on Nov 11 with the Second Harvest Produce Express, a refrigerator truck servicing up to 160 families in Erie every month, has shown an above-average interest in service opportunities among the class of 2018.

Second Harvest began the Produce Express in January to enable increased access to nutritious food among families otherwise unable to afford it. Bethany Brun, the director of service learning, sent out an email to approximately 100 students through Campus Ministry asking for assistance. The responses quickly filled the 14 slots available to help with the project, and leaving her with an excess of over 20 students who responded, but not soon enough.

The response rate, according to Brun, was above average, and about “80 to 85 percent of the ones I reached out to were all freshmen. And the majority of the ones who responded were freshmen.”

Two freshmen, Jacob Chichester and Michaela Gerrace, who helped with the project gave their reasons for responding to Brun’s request and giving their time to this opportunity.

Chichester’s reasons spanned from his involvement with the cross country team in high school and at Mercyhurst, which helped form “a passion to help people,” he said. “Whenever I got the opportunity, especially in high school and now, I always felt the need to help those less fortunate than I was, or giving other people better opportunities in life.”

Chichester’s ambition to serve others drove his choice to major in psychology in order to become a psychiatrist. “I feel like that’s the best way to help people,” he said. “Because even if they don’t have the same opportunities as others, you can still understand them.”

Gerrace’s interests lie with helping the poor, as well as with the work she does as part of her public health major. “I want to make a difference,” she said.
The experience was eye-opening for Gerrace, who learned first-hand about the issues which are often only discussed. “Some of the families [who received food from the program] received an income of less than $700 a month,” she said. “You hear about these problems, but you actually don’t understand until you actually volunteer.”

Brun is looking to accommodate the desire of members of the class of 2018 to engage in service learning. “I’m already looking into a couple of opportunities in early December before they get started on finals, that I think I’m going to push out to that same group if not try to expand it.”