Volunteering, promoting service and breaking stereotypes are just some of the activities of Grand Valley State University’s student organization Hunger and Homelessness. The members of the group spend their free time spreading awareness of food shortage and the homeless.
Katelyn Winslow is the current president of the organization, which was founded in fall 1989 and was one of the first volunteer driven student organizations.
Winslow said the group sparked her interest by its aspect of community service.
“I loved the idea of contributing locally, (having) an impact that was visible,” she said.
Since Winslow took over the position of president, she said her focus has been building relationships within the group while continuing volunteer work throughout the Grand Rapids area.
One unique aspect of the organization is the extensive amount of volunteering done by its members. Hunger and Homelessness members volunteer every weekend, usually at food banks or homeless organizations, said Winslow, adding that each volunteer opportunity is a chance to impact members.
“The food banks, specifically Feeding America and Kids Food Basket, provide a look at how immense the problem of food insecurity is in West Michigan,” Winslow said. “Their operations are mind-boggling and rely heavily on volunteers.”
Lauren Branson, the advertising chair for the student organization, said while the club is centered at GVSU, a main goal is to reach further beyond campus.
“We all enjoy being active with the community and we have fun while we are making a difference,” Branson said.
With their volunteer work ranging from helping organizations such as the YMCA and Bethany Christian Services, Winslow said volunteering to help the homeless is close to her heart.
“There is a stereotypical homeless person: An older man, who drinks, wears torn clothing and sleeps under a bridge,” she said. “It is true some homeless people do fit this, but the majority do not.”
Sarah Craven said she joined Hunger and Homelessness for the volunteer opportunities the organization provided.
Craven said the club brings opportunities to GVSU students, but also gives students the opportunity to volunteer with off-campus organizations.
With many locations and organizations benefiting from Hunger and Homelessness’ volunteering, Branson said her favorite event involved not only helping out, but learning.
“At Take Hold Church in downtown Grand Rapids, we were given the opportunity to not only feed people, but also sit down and hear their stories,” Branson said. “It was a really interesting and eye-opening experience.”
With Hunger and Homelessness classified as a service and advocacy student organization at GVSU, Winslow said many would be surprised at how effective volunteering can be.
“It makes you feel good about yourself, learn new skills, engaging in your community, boost career options and meeting new people,” Winslow said. “And it’s also nice when someone asks you how your weekend was and you can say you volunteered at a food bank.”
From her experience in the organization, Winslow said many wouldn’t believe how many are affected by homelessness.
“Homelessness is a product of many things, including victims of abuse, mental illness, hard times and the effects of a low wage job,” she said. “You would be surprised how many people around you who are homeless or food insecure, the student in your economics class, a veteran who served in the war, or even the person you sit next to every week at church.”
Hunger and Homelessness meetings are held every other Monday at 9:15 p.m. in Kirkhof 1142, with the next meeting occurring March 11. For more information about the Hunger and Homelessness organization or to find out about upcoming events, you can ‘like’ their page on Facebook.