It's 9 am on a Saturday in early spring. Early by any college student's standards. Eight members of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority at Capital University wipe sleep from their eyes, but muster their cheer to greet about 20 shoppers queued outside the sliding glass doors of a Great Western Shopping Center storefront bearing a familiar iconography: Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio.
With welcoming smiles and eager hearts, the sisters of ASA listen carefully to instructions given by the staff of LSS Westside Food Pantry, located at 82 N. Wilson Road. Throughout the morning, they stock shelves, box and carry out groceries and find other ways to help serve the food pantry's patrons, who represent just a fraction of the 207,700 different Ohioans who receive emergency food assistance in any given week just to get by.
The sorority highly encourages participation in community service, and it's certainly a fundamental part of Capital's culture. But that's not what motivated first-year student Shideh Javan, a marketing major from Hilliard, to show up.
"We all come into it looking at is as an opportunity to bond with our sisters. But every time we get into the experience, we realize how blessed we are and how grateful we should be. It's very humbling," she said.
This scene was replayed at 14 sites across Columbus and Bexley for Capital's annual Crusader Day of Service, which connected Capital students to Central Ohio's social service agencies and the people they serve. Donning shirts that read, "Service isn't what we do. It's who we are," more than 160 students supported the work of:
Regardless of their major — history, communication, nursing, biology, political science, sociology and many more — Capital students traded the comfort of campus for the greater good. And for each other.
"We wanted to pick something science-y and environmental since that's our thing," said Carly Moss, a junior environmental science major, with friends Ryan Rutschilling, a junior chemistry/pre-medicine major and biochemistry minor; and Jessica Sweeney, a sophomore biochemistry and biology/pre-medicine major and psychology minor. At the Bexley Community Garden, the group laid mulch tracks around each garden plot, cleaned and prepped flower beds, and planted some flowers in anticipation of the spring planting season and the Bexley Home and Garden Tour. The students had so much fun participating last year they wanted to do it again.
"These students are just wonderful," said Bexley's Diane Grosser, organizer of the garden. "A group came out last year and helped, too, and it just made such a difference. We are so grateful for them."
There's no argument that helping someone in need yields a powerful return on investment. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” is a famous quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. As she shopped with the patrons at the local food pantry, Suzanne Case, of Westerville, could relate.
"We talk a lot about being broke college kids," said Case, a first-year student majoring in organizational communications. "But when you come face to face with real need, you realize you are privileged beyond belief."
Expanding on Case's point, Javan added, "To be able to take that experience back to others in our community and open up opportunities for others to serve — it's a blessing."