UCF students devote Sundays to feed homeless
While some students spend their Sunday nights cramming and doing last-minute homework, others go to Downtown Orlando with warm meals for the homeless.
Every Sunday night, students involved in Volunteer UCF — an agency affiliated with the Office of Student Involvement that promotes civic engagement and education to UCF students — go out of their way to help the homeless.
Volunteer UCF's Sunday Knight College Food Share is presented by Straight Street Orlando, a non-profit organization, and takes place in the parking lot of St. George's Greek Orthodox Church. The event attracts about 40 to 70 volunteers in the fall and spring.
At the most recent food share on May 17, the Boy Scouts of America volunteered alongside UCF students, and food was donated by Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Once all the food was set up and benches were brought out for the homeless, UCF alumna and former Volunteer UCF Hunger and Homelessness Director Alice Neira gathered the volunteers together for a meeting.
"Volunteer with an open mind and an open heart," Neira said. "We are here to give them food, but also provide conversation and talk to them. A big part of this is having all of us not only help serve a meal, but possibly break some stereotypes about homelessness and hunger."
The homeless sat on the benches and stood within and around the parking lot while volunteers served them food, including chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, salad, bread and lemonade. Everyone talked with one another while eating the food provided by KFC and volunteers.
"I think when people view homeless people, they view them as just people begging, but if they hear their stories and their tough times like the volunteers do, they would understand we look forward to seeing them again," said Volunteer UCF Student Director Annabelle Gonzales, who has been volunteering for two years.
"I came here for myself, but they stop becoming just homeless people and actually real people," said Gonzales, a junior psychology major. "The experience itself is the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. It's a different relationship and different than every other relationship you will ever have."
"Overall, it doesn't only impact the community but you learn about yourself, too."
Sunday Knight College Food Share will take place this Sunday and all students, groups and organizations are welcome to volunteer.
Those interested in volunteering can sign up on Knight Connect or visit firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Bridgette Norris is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @blogginbridge email her at BridgetteN@CentralFloridaFuture.com.