By Sara Quimby, Staff Writer

Rotaract members at RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) (photo courtesy of Emily Bennett)

Rotaract members at RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) (photo courtesy of Emily Bennett)

UMF’s Rotaract club is planning a food drive for students at Jay Elementary, as well a number of other volunteer activities for this spring with the hopes of continuing with a successful year.

Katie Beach, a senior at UMF, is the president of Rotaract and has seen the club grow over the course of the year. “We’ve gotten a lot more active participants— a lot more than we had last year and that was a big goal for me,” said Beach. “I think we’ve had a really productive year so far.

The food drive program for Jay Elementary students is a significant upcoming event for the club. Erin Levasseur, a sophomore at UMF and vice president of Rotaract, explained via email the importance of this program. “Many students act out before vacation. In reality these kids are frustrated because school acts as their safe haven; they are guaranteed meals, shelter, love, and warmth,” said Levasseur. “During break, some students will not be fed properly.”

Beach, who is currently student teaching in Jay, described the objectives of the food drive. “The goal is to find food that is easy to prepare,” said Beach. “Non-perishables that students don’t need to have prepared for them.”

Food donations will be packed into backpacks for the students to bring home with them for April break. Students will be chosen to participate based on who the Jay Elementary guidance counselor feels will benefit the most. There are currently 20 backpacks waiting to be filled with food for students.

One element of the program is discreteness. “They just put the backpack on and no one needs to know what’s in it,” said Beach.

Rotaract members will be making their rounds through the residence halls to collect food. “We’re going to go around and knock on doors,” said Beach. In addition, there will be boxes left for donations in The Student Center.

“Everything helps,” said Beach. “Even if you do only have one can of tomato soup to give. The more food we can get, the more backpacks we can send home.”

Beach hopes to keep this program going and to expand on it so kids will not only receive food before school vacations, but prior to weekends as well.

Rotaract also has a trip to the homeless shelter planned for this spring. “We recently held a few events that raised a few hundred dollars for the shelter, so we would like to give back in a hands on approach,” said Levasseur.

Levasseur shed light on the fact that there are even children living in the shelter. “We are going to bring books and games to play with them,” said Levasseur. In addition, Beach will be teaching a Pilates class there.

Along with the food drive and the visit to the homeless shelter, Rotaract’s spring semester will include a Habitat for Humanity project, an outdoor clean up, and a basketball knockout tournament aimed at raising money.

Beach feels that through Rotaract she has not only helped others, but has benefitted personally. “I have had so much success in getting involved with Rotary,” said Beach. “There are so many influential people who are involved and it is a really good networking tool for students.”

Beach emphasized that Rotaract always welcomes new members. “We welcome people any time,” said Beach. “The more people involved, the more we can do in the community.”