Hunger and Homelessness club expanding reach, mulling rebranding


GVL / Annabelle Robinson

Jacob DeWeerd, Laker Life Editor

On Feb. 2, the Hunger and Homelessness club at Grand Valley State University held its first meeting of the semester. The club welcomed new members and discussed expanding their services, changing up the club’s image and service opportunities available throughout the rest of the semester.

The student-led Hunger and Homelessness club has been around since 1989 and focuses on service, advocacy and volunteer work in the GVSU community. During typical years, members complete in-person group-service projects in the Allendale and Grand Rapids areas. Lately, the club has shifted its efforts to virtual and individual service due to COVID-19.

“We’ve had a difficult time, especially last year when there weren’t a lot of people on campus and most organizations didn’t allow in-person volunteering,” said Club President Maya Deciechi. 

Deciechi said adapting to the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging.

“We had to get creative and figure out a whole bunch of ways for people to volunteer virtually or at home, so we created a document that we update throughout the semester with ways for our members to continue to volunteer and help our community while also being safe,” Deciechi said. 

In order to make volunteer opportunities more accessible, the club started maintaining a virtual calendar with volunteer opportunities for members to keep an eye on. The calendar is updated monthly and has helped the Hunger and Homelessness members stay organized throughout the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The calendar was a solution to a problem caused by COVID,” said second-year student Logyn Miller. “And at the end of the day it probably forced us to adapt the club to a better point. If anything, it’s been hard but it’s also made us stronger.”

After the introduction of a few new members, the meeting shifted to discuss a rebrand of Hunger and Homelessness. As the club has branched out to a broader selection of service opportunities, board members have considered a name change to signify the shift.

“We have previously focused on group-based volunteer opportunities and we will still put energy into finding opportunities like that, but we also are shifting to putting more energy into just finding volunteer opportunities for our members,” Deciechi said. “This includes opportunities at food banks, thrift stores, medical facilities, et cetera.”

Having a wider selection of service opportunities is key for accessibility, which has been a core value of Hunger and Homelessness from the very beginning. The club requires no dues or meeting attendance from members in order to be accessible to as many students as possible.

“It’s a hard thing to start volunteering and I don’t think it should be that way,” Miller said. “Our club works really hard to not let people stress and we want to be a low-risk club.”

The issues that inspired the name of the Hunger and Homelessness club have only gotten worse in recent years, especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of homeless people utilizing shelters in Grand Rapids has typically hovered around 1,000, according to MLive. While that number has only seen a slight increase over the past two years, other problems like supply and volunteer shortages have hit shelters hard.

“I don’t think they have enough help or resources,” said fourth-year student Sofia Mihaylova. “So it’s always good to try to contribute and help out, especially in the winter. I mean, it’s freezing outside and they need more resources.”

To expand their reach and help as many people as possible, Hunger and Homelessness is hoping to work with other GVSU clubs. The potential for collaborative events and volunteer experiences featuring members from multiple clubs is something the club is excited to work towards.

“We’ve got four or five different clubs wanting to work together,” Miller said. “It’s gonna be awesome. I hope we can get it all to work out and work well together. We’ve been talking to the pre-med club about having some sort of event with them, something like a fundraiser or a food drive, a clothes drive, whatever.”

More information about Hunger and Homelessness can be found on LakerLink. Future meetings and service opportunities will be posted there and on the club’s Google Calendar.