Local teens volunteer at Gleaners to honor Martin Luther King’s legacy

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Photo by Sue Suchyta

Allen Park St. Frances Cabrini High School 16-year-old juniors Gabby Costa (left), Zachary Seasock and Jacob Seasock sort food donations Jan. 19 at Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan in Detroit.

By SUE SUCHYTA

Sunday Times Newspapers

DETROIT – When Therese Tardiff brings teens to Gleaners Community Food Bank to pack food boxes for the poor, she said she hopes they learn more about the needs of the underprivileged.

Tardiff, coordinator of campus ministry for St. Frances Cabrini High School in Allen Park, has been bringing students to volunteer at Gleaners for 18 years. On Jan. 19, she brought a group of students, wearing matching t-shirts bearing the image and a quote from the late Martin Luther King Jr., to join other volunteers honoring the slain civil rights leader by volunteering their time.

The shirts, supplied by the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, had King’s image and “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” on the back, with “Be the change you wish to see in Detroit” on the front.

Tardiff said the size of Gleaners’ warehouse at 2131 Beaufait in Detroit, the 600 agencies they serve and the needs of the poor in the southeastern Michigan area surprises the Cabrini High School students, who are required to perform service hours, at least half of which must provide direct service to the poor.

“I feel that it’s a blessing that I get the opportunity to come and work with the kids, and expose them to the needs of others,” Tardiff said. “I feel very passionate about that. I enjoy working with these agencies, but I also enjoy giving the kids an opportunity to serve and be exposed to the needs of those who are in need.”

Parent volunteer Renee Speer said that even the drive down to Gleaners in Detroit exposes the suburban teens to the area’s blight and the visible needs of the residents of inner city neighborhoods. She said she tells them why the neighborhoods declined and what they can do to help.

“I tell them, ‘Once there was a thriving neighborhood there, and see that auto plant over there that is empty? When that plant moved out, all these people lost their jobs,’” Speers said. “Just bringing them here… is a great opportunity.”

As junior David Szczesney, 17, packed literature about energy saving into bags for distribution Jan. 19, he said the scope of the services that Gleaners supplies impressed him, and it is worth getting up early on a Saturday morning to help.

“Once I got up and got going it wasn’t that bad,” Szczesney said. “We’re so lucky to have what we have . Getting up at 7 a.m. on one Saturday morning isn’t really that big of a deal to help people out.”

Sophomore Emma Avery, 15, who has volunteered at Gleaners before, remains impressed by

the size of the warehouse and the amount of food it stores. She said that since Gleaners depends heavily on volunteers, she is glad she can help them fulfill their mission.

Avery said she thinks she will now see her food pantry at home differently.

“We take for granted how easy it is for us to get food,” Avery said. “There are a lot of people in the world who aren’t as fortunate as us.”

The size of the Gleaners warehouse, and the variety of needs they supply for the poor, including toiletries, impressed senior Blue Profitt, 17, who in the past has volunteered at a soup kitchen, a crisis pregnancy clinic and as a tutor.

“I think that most kids wouldn’t want to be here… on a Saturday,” Profitt said. “But I really don’t mind – in fact, I somewhat enjoy helping. It is not as hard as it seems when you think about how somebody’s going to open this and not know it was you that helped them – it’s really gratifying.”

Junior Alexa Van Scyoc, 16, a past Gleaners’ volunteer, finds the warehouse’s organization and efficiency impressive, and credits that with their ability to help so many other organizations.

“They have a really good process here,” Van Scyoc said. “A lot of the volunteers actually do a lot of the work here, and that’s one of the good things about this place.”

She said the number of people their efforts will reach is impressive to her.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Van Scyoc said. “It’s actually not extremely hard. Small things can make a big difference.”

For more information about Gleaners Community Food Bank, call (866) 453-2637, or go to www.gcfb.org.

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