Volleyball club teams up with local nonprofit

Volleyball club teams up with local nonprofit

Brodie Orent

Last weekend the Grand Valley State women’s club volleyball team made a difference in the local community by volunteering with the Grand Rapids Red Project.

GVSU assistant coach Sierra Dunlap, who has been helped with the organization for more than a year, said the Red Project’s mission is to improve health, reduce risk and prevent HIV in the Grand Rapids area. It offers free, confidential HIV and Hepatitis C testing, support groups, a syringe access program, free safer sex supplies and an overdose prevention program.

Dunlap started volunteering there because of her interest in public health. 

“It’s important to meet people where they’re at in this field and if that means someone is injecting, it’s important that they have the means to do it safely…The focus is harm-reduction,” she said.

Volleyball player Makenzie Branderhorst said the team split into two groups while volunteering. One group helped organize the attic in the building while the other made 180 overdose prevention kits.

The kits include medicine that can help reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, a DVD on how to administer the medications and other items related to overdose prevention. 

“This is a way that we can hopefully save lives, by creating the overdose kits and now being able to spread the word about the organization and what they do for the Grand Rapids area,” Branderhorst said. “Also, our club has been given so much that we want to be able to give back to the community.

“I know we all were happy with how much we were able to do because that is potentially 180 lives that could be saved from an overdose. Also, helping move and organize their attic was fulfilling because we knew how much we were helping them in growing their organization. The workers continued to tell us how happy they were that we came to volunteer there because it helped them so much.”

For Dunlap, volunteering is inspiring in general, but volunteering with the Red Project gives her an opportunity to work in an area she is passionate in.

“I have worked in difficult fields of practice in social work but I have always said the same thing: The one success story or ‘thank you’ you get from helping people who are truly in need will make up for all of the bad days — and trust me there are more bad days than there are good a lot of the time,” she said.

The organization requires many volunteers to operate at full capacity. Those looking to lend a hand can sign up at www.redproject.org.