Volunteering Opportunities Flourish In Valley

Piece of the Pie has been the Food Bank’s biggest fundraiser for 12 years. The money raised this year will go to programs such as nutrition education and raising community awareness of hunger, as well as to the distribution of food to needy groups including senior citizens and low-income children in western Massachusetts.

Although many Amherst students took advantage of the opportunity to help the community, some students feel that simply dining out is inadequate.

“It’s great to participate in these things,” said Outreach Council member Sarah Johnson ’02, “but that’s not really enough. By going out and eating a meal, you’re not really getting involved with the community. You don’t even know where your contribution is really going.”

Other members of groups on the Outreach Council agreed with Johnson, saying that Amherst students need to get more involved off campus.

“I feel that I owe something to the community,” said Willy Rogers ’01, volunteer coordinator of the Amherst chapter of Habitat for Humanity. “I feel that Amherst benefits from being in a community like this, and I feel we have an obligation to give something back.”

Johnson sees her efforts as a means of sharing her good fortune. “To get into Amherst College, you have to have a lot of help along the way, and not everyone has that,” she explained. “I feel like people in my position have some obligation to help others along.”

“Sometimes Amherst people put too high a priority on schoolwork; they kind of cop out,” added Rogers.

Lauren Kopyt ’02, co-chair of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, suggested that Amherst students would do better to give physical rather than financial support in their community service. “I think that time is more important than money-if you go out to a food bank or a shelter and donate your time, that’s usually more helpful.”

Still, these leaders noted that many Amherst students do show substantial interest in the outside community. “I think a lot of people are involved in community service at Amherst,” said Kopyt.

“Habitat gets a large group of excited people every year,” added Rogers. “We certainly do better than the other schools-we had nearly 40 people last Saturday coming in two shifts, putting up the walls [on the house Habitat is building this semester]. I’m happy with Habitat and what we do, but I feel Amherst as a whole could do better.”

But what makes an Outreach member tick-what inspires them to service? “It’s a little bit of obligation and a little bit of enjoyment,” explained Johnson. “I want to be connected to the community around me that’s not just students and professors; I want to help out people without my advantages.”

Kopyt’s interest in community service stems from a personal history of active involvement. “I enjoy doing it,” she said. “It’s something I’ve always done since I was very, very small.”

“It’s definitely an obligation,” said Rogers. “I’m representing the school.”

For a sampling of service options compiled by The Student, go here