Thiel food drive

Students sort and bag food at Thiel College as part of a food collection the freshmen organized for their community service project, with the food later donated at the beginning of this month to the Salvation Army and the Good Shepherd Food Pantry in Greenville.

GREENVILLE — While students throughout Mercer County settled into their school routines, students at Thiel College did something a little extra to get accustomed not only to campus, but the entire Greenville area by collecting more than two tons of food for a local pantry.

When the incoming students moved back on campus on Aug. 24, there were the usual activities to greet them and get the students used to the college.

On Aug. 25 — one day after returning to campus — students went into the community outside downtown Greenville, and gave out 3,000 bags for residents to fill with food donations, said Associate Academic Dean of Student Success Dr. Greg Q. Butcher.

“Most of our students are new to the Greenville area, so this gives them a chance to drive around and explore the area,” Butcher said.

Each group of freshmen met with their first-year advisors in Greenville before heading out to distribute the bags. The groups were accompanied by their peer mentors, upperclassmen who helped the faculty coordinate the student teams, although Butcher said the peer mentors serve an important role throughout the school year.

“They often serve as friends of the students,” Butcher said. “They can answer questions that students may not feel comfortable asking a teacher, or they can also help with technical questions like ‘how do I get my mail’ or ‘what’s the best meal plan.’ “

Two days later, the students collected more than 1,500 bags full of food donated by the residents and brought them back to the college.

This year’s collection was the second annual community service project organized by first-year students at the college, with last year’s collection raising about 3,000 pounds of food for the Good Shepherd Food Pantry in Greenville, according to a press release.

“Some of our sophomores are from Greenville and did this last year, so they were able to help with some of the maps or help the students with directions,” Butcher said.

The collection expanded this year and students collected about 4,500 pounds of food. Collection organizers donated about 2,000 pounds to the Salvation Army in Greenville, with the remaining 2,500 pounds given to the Good Shepherd Food Pantry. The students weighed and sorted the collected food before donating it to the local food agencies, Butcher said.

“One of the observations from last year when we donated to the Good Shepherd was they were very appreciative but we sort of overwhelmed them,” he said. “Some of the bags were also in the rain, so to make it easier on the food pantry we sorted them into categories such as canned fruit or canned vegetables, and then we re-bagged them.”

As with last year’s collection, students had a chance to meet and talk with some of the Greenville residents as they distributed and collected the bags. Aside from explaining the food collection, Butcher said the students’ conversations often included a welcome from the residents.

While the faculty plan on continuing the community service project next year, Butcher said students are also already looking at ways they could improve the collection.

“We would like to see about more sustainable bags that we could use in the future, and one of our peers floated the idea of doing a spring and a fall pickup,” he said.

Like David L. Dye on Facebook or email him at ddye@sharonherald.com.

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