On the third Tuesday of every month, BYU-Idaho students have the chance to volunteer at the Monthly Mobile Pantry, said Rick Croft, the clinical director of Madison CARES.
According to its website, Madison CARES is an organization through Madison School District #321 that provides a number of services focused on sporting families in the community that are struggling.
Croft said the program has been around for 4 1/2 years, but the mobile pantry, which serves as a food bank, was introduced only one year ago.
“The pantry was initially started to kind of be consistent with the population that Madison CARES serves,” Croft said. “But we won’t turn anybody away.”
Croft said people travel from St. Anthony, Idaho Falls and even Blackfoot to come pick food.
Starting Spring Semester 2014, BYU-I Student Services has been providing a way for student volunteers to have transportation to the food bank, said Justin Pierson, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering who works for Student Services.
“Justin drives the BYU-I van, and it’s like a shuttle back and forth from the food bank,” said Natalie Elison, a sophomore studying psychology who also works for Student Services.
Elison said that between each class period, students can meet at the roundabout by the BYU-I Center to be picked and taken to the food bank and brought back to campus when the shuttle makes another trip.
“It gives you a sense of purpose,” Elison said.
Pierson said that before the shuttle system was set , students were expected to just meet at the food bank.
“We want people who want a way to get involved,” Pierson said. “It’s a good way to get and serve other people.”
Croft said Madison CARES usually get between 25-40 volunteers.
“It does seem that over the last five or six months, each subsequent month we have more BYU-I students volunteer,” Croft said.
According to the Madison CARES website, the organization has partnered with the Idaho Food Bank basedin Boise.
Croft said the food comes from a distribution center in Pocatello, and a semi-truck arrives on the morning of distribution around 8 a.m.
“So once we get all the food off the truck, it needs to be sorted or unboxed or unpackaged,” Croft said. “That’s the majority of where our volunteers step in.”
Pierson said students can also expect to help distribute the food once the food bank opens.
Croft said the food bank serves about 450 families each month, on average.
“I would say two or three times a month when I myself am working the pantry, I’ll feel someone tap me or tug on my sleeve and say, ‘I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t had this food today,’” Croft said.
Elison said that in order to get all of the experience needed out of attending BYU-I, students need to put themselves out there and put others ahead of themselves sometimes.
Croft said that besides the food bank, students can volunteer at various events put on by Madison CARES, such as Celebrate Youth.
He said students can occasionally help organize materials needed for the organization’s multiple campaigns as well.
“There’s always an opportunity for a volunteer,” Croft said.
Croft said those who are interested in volunteering should contact Jessica Goudy at 208-359-3300 ext. 3434 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pierson said the next time students can volunteer at the food back is July 15.
He said the shuttle starts at 7:45 a.m. and the last pick from campus is at 11:30 a.m.
“At BYU-I we’re about building disciple leaders, and that starts with Christlike service,” Pierson said.