Students give back to the community

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Courtesy of Nikita Bhaskar

Wearing gloves and a mask, sophomore Nikita Bhaskar prepares sandwiches for the Hindu Temple of St. Louis. This was Bhaskar’s first time volunteering. “I felt really accomplished,” Bhaskar said. “I think it’s important to volunteer because we worry about ourselves 24 hours a day, so volunteering gives us an opportunity to step back and spend our time thinking about someone else instead.”

After realizing the impact of the pandemic, some students used their time off during the summer to volunteer for organizations supporting people in need. 

In order to be safe, sophomore Nikita Bhaskar took precautions while volunteering. As she made muffins and sandwiches for the St. Louis Children’s hospital and the Hindu Temple of St. Louis, she had to repeatedly clean surfaces and cooking tools while wearing gloves and a mask.

“I was initially a little nervous about spreading germs to the doctors and folks in need who I was cooking for, but knowing that I was taking all precautions possible eased my nerves,” Bhaskar said.

Though Bhaskar was not able to physically interact with the people who her food impacted, one of her neighbors was a doctor at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

“I remember her telling us that she would get so excited whenever there were treats for the doctors, especially if they were able to take them home to their families. Knowing that motivated me to continue volunteering,” Bhaskar said.

Sophomore Lauren McLeod volunteered at the People’s Health Care Center (PHCC), where she passed out fresh produce, meat, coffee and school supplies to families who have been impacted by the pandemic. 

“I decided to volunteer because I knew I was very lucky to not be impacted during this pandemic and economic recession and I just wanted to give back to the community,” McLeod said.

When McLeod’s mom, who works at the PHCC, mentioned the idea to her she immediately took the opportunity. During her time volunteering, McLeod met this family that had nine children and they were all sitting in the back of a pickup truck.

I’ve always taken for granted having access to new school supplies every year and I never took a minute to see that that is a privilege, but now I do and I see a lot in a different perspective.”

— Lauren McLeod

“They were probably under the age of 12 or 10 and they all looked so happy to be getting school supplies,” McLeod said. “Then, the grandparents just looked at me for a second and said ‘thank you so much.’ That was a big moment in life for me to not be ungrateful and look at the little things in life that can impact others. I’ve always taken for granted having access to new school supplies every year and I never took a minute to see that that is a privilege, but now I do and I see a lot in a different perspective.”

Packaging food such as fresh produce, meat and coffee, sophomore Lauren McLeod volunteers for the PHCC. (Lauren McLeod)

During her time volunteering at the St. Louis Food Bank and making care packages for families in need, sophomore Esha Francis learned the impact of volunteering.

“There was a single mother who didn’t have enough money to pay her rent let alone enough food,” Francis said. “Through the help of the St. Louis Food Bank, she was able to get back on her feet and now she’s very successful all because the food bank was there to assist her for a couple of weeks. It goes to show how much we can really change people’s lives if we give them a couple hours of our time.”

Francis encourages other students to volunteer.

“I learned the impact of a couple hours of volunteer service. Just a couple of hours during a weekend could really change someone’s life,” Francis said. “I would recommend volunteering to anyone who is able to because as a community we need to come together and help those who are in need of our help.”