Tallahassee, Fla. (seminoles.com) — Summer vacation for students in Florida usually consists of avoiding the heat by relaxing at a pool or going to the beach, but not for the Florida State University basketball team and members of the first year class at the Florida State College of Law. One sweltering day in late August, the two organizations used their free time to join forces in an effort to give back to their Tallahassee community. Phil Cofer, PJ Savoy, and Braian Angola-Rodas of the FSU basketball team volunteered with over 60 students from the College of Law at America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend.
As part of its fall 2016 orientation program, the College of Law added a new service project to introduce the incoming students to the Tallahassee community and the importance of giving back. The decision to work with the Second Harvest was an easy one.
Students were eager and excited to be involved in the project according to Dean of Students Nancy Benavides.
“It’s a wonderful organization,” said Benavides. “Second Harvest is a food bank that distributes more than three million pounds of food every year to families I need,” said Benavides, “When we reached out they were happy to have us and we were delighted to partner with them.”
Second Harvest is part of the nation’s largest food relief organization, the Feeding America network, which is comprised of just under 200 food banks throughout the country. They have multiple programs benefitting the numerous different communities, including disaster relief, child nutrition and senior grocery aid.
The success of the organization relies heavily on the generosity of their volunteers, according to CEO Rick Minor.
“Having folks like FSU students come in and dedicate their time for us literally helps us get the food out to people that need it,” said Minor. “We wouldn’t be a good food bank if we just had a warehouse of food but we didn’t have any means to get that food out to people.”
Among the many duties performed by the basketball players and the students from the College of Law, one in particular stood out.
A group of students and the basketball players contributed to child nutrition by packing bags of food for the BackPack Program. This program provides over 800 bags of food every week for children who qualify for free or reduced lunches at school, but often don’t have consistent meals on the weekends or over summer vacation. Surveys of teachers and students have shown a dramatic increase in attendance, alertness, attention span and improved behavior in students since the start of the BackPack Program. Because no federal funding exists for this program, it’s completely dependent on the local volunteers and the money the organization fundraises.
For Seminole basketball star Phil Cofer, the experience was a little more personal.
“I know some nights when I was young I didn’t have much to eat,” said Cofer. “So thinking back on that, it’s a good thing to do so kids in our community won’t have to go through that.”
Cofer and his teammates understand, especially as student-athletes, that not everyone can always find the time in their busy schedules to give back to their communities. This is why he and his teammates feel it’s so important for them do what they can to help.
Cofer excitedly exclaimed “Oh, no doubt!” when asked if he would like to volunteer for the Second Harvest organization again in the future.
Minor also added that Second Harvest would be more than happy to have the basketball team and law school back in again.
“They weren’t just here to log in hours,” says Minor, “they were here to get the job done and we were really grateful to have had them here.”
By Noell Powell
Florida State Sports Information