Published on March 29th, 2017 | by Adrianna Cole
Sandwich Ministries impacts both community and volunteers
Sundays at Florida Southern are the quietest days of the week. There aren’t many planned events, and most students take the day to finish homework, do laundry or binge-watch the next season of a show on Netflix.
However, one spot on campus is bustling with students making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and packing a cooler full of Gatorade and other snacks. Sandwich Ministries is a service organization that meets every Sunday at 1 p.m. to make lunches for the homeless in Munn Park.
Vice President Sierra Kitchen checks the inventory early Sunday morning to see what could be packed. She said the organization knows well in advance when it’s running low on supplies.
“Right now, I can tell you that next week is our last week for bread,” Kitchen said.
Kitchen said it’s easier when other organizations donate leftover food or students buy supplies from the Moc Mart.
“After the Campus Ministries Block Party, there were hot dogs left over that we were able to pack,” she said.
Kitchen has been involved with Sandwich Ministries since her first semester at FSC. She said she fell in love with the ministry and the impact it has on the community.
“I mean, you look at what we do, and it’s just making sandwiches,” Kitchen said. “It’s something a five year old can make. It’s something people eat every day, but can you say the same thing for those in need? When we hand them out at the parks, people’s faces light up.”
Tyjhe Grayson transferred to FSC last year and said he was looking for somewhere to get involved.
“It’s something great to do on Sunday afternoon[s],” Grayson said. “Most of my friends do laundry or hang out by the pool. I always tell them while their clothes are drying, they can help us out. It doesn’t take more than 20 minutes.”
Associate Chaplain Bryant Manning said the organization impacts the community as well as the students participating.
“Think about it this way,” Manning said. “Whenever a college student at a liberal arts private school [participates in an activity like this one], it’s an opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and talk to someone who has a different life story than them. It’s positive in their own spiritual growth and maturity.”
Kitchen said that before she joined the organization, she had never worked with the homeless before. After volunteering the first time, she had to continue to come back.
“I just figured it’d be cool to try something new,” she said. “Before, I never considered the homeless. They were just there to me. In the back of my mind, I had felt that they were just choosing this, but it’s more complicated than that. A lot of them have jobs, but sometimes, you’re just a couple of paychecks away from being homeless.”
Kitchen said the sandwiches aren’t the best part about the ministry. The conversations she gets to have with some of the homeless are what keep her coming back.
Having conversations is also Grayson’s favorite part. According to him, the more people who attend Sandwich Ministries, the more time the group has to talk to some of the homeless in Munn Park.
“It’s just really awesome to listen to their stories about what they want us to do, you know, make sure you go in the right direction, and so I really enjoy it a lot,” Grayson said. “I remember one fellow started talking about God, and it was great conversation.”
There is no time commitment in order to participate, and no one needs to go pass out the meals. A few volunteers, such as Mackenzie DeRosa, are unable to come to every meeting, so she said it makes it easier on her as well.
“I went out the first time I [volunteered],” DeRosa said. “It was nice to see them treat the homeless population as people. I worked with the homeless shelter before in high school, and there was this stigma that you couldn’t talk to them because it’s dangerous or they’re dirty. They’re less fortunate than us. They’re not less than us.”
DeRosa said she hopes more people will get involved and see that it’s a worthwhile experience to have.
The organization’s numbers have shrunk over the last year, but the group hopes more people will find out about the ministry and get involved.
Grayson said he’s happy whenever someone comes to help. There are some days only four people will show up, which are not the numbers the group hopes to have, but Grayson said he’s staying optimistic about it.
“We know people get busy, so we don’t blame them,” Grayson said. “We’re thankful for anyone who comes by. It’s just such a great organization and the impact we have on the community, it’s amazing.”
This past Sunday, the group saw a spike of 40 volunteers when the activity was listed under passport credit. Each passport participant had to either attend two days of sandwich making or a full day, including passing out the lunches.
Whether there are 40 participants or three, Sandwich Ministries said they will continue to serve the community as long as there is one person in need.