Nujtxeeq Vue, AKA Newt, was busy at a Salvation Army Store in Amarillo, Texas, Tuesday morning.
“We’re folding clothes, lots of clothes,” he said. But, he took time to discuss what he and his fellow college students were doing on their spring break.
The 40 volunteers are on a bus for nine days volunteering on a mission called Pay it Forward out of Duluth, Minn. Prior to Amarillo, they were in Great Bend Monday.
“It’s a good experience,” Vue said.
They contacted the Great Bend Salvation Army Store and offered their services. Store Manager Jane Berg then called the Family Crisis Center to see if we could use some volunteers as well.
They arrived in Great Bend Sunday evening and stayed at the First United Methodist Church. The Family Crisis Center provided breakfast and Salvation Army provided lunch.
“I get this call out of the blue,” Berg said. Vue told her they had 40 volunteer students who wanted to work.
“There was no way I could handle 40 in my store,” she said. So, she called around to other United Way agencies.
At the Salvation Army Monday morning, the students unloaded a truck, sorted donations and cleaned. “They were a godsend. I could have kept them for a week,” Berg said.
“We divided up the volunteers and it was astounding what the group accomplished in just three and a half hours,” said FCC Volunteer Coordinator Renee Miller of their efforts. After lunch, the group boarded their bus and were on their way the Texas.
“They were able to get a great start on establishing Hope’s Closet at the Family Crisis Center,” Miller said. That is the center’s official donation room that clients are able to utilize to get clothing and household items.
They scrubbed, mopped, sorted, organized and painted the room. “We even had three that were able to go to our shelter and do yard work,” Miller said.
The Pay it Forward effort is part of Students Today, Leaders Forever, a leadership program focusing on getting youth involved in their communities, making a difference and discovering their potential, said Ellie Thorstad, a STLF student intern from Minneapolis, Minn. The program was founded in 2003 and the first trip took place in March 2004.
“Our mission is to reveal leadership through action,” Thorstad said. The STLF chapters, most of which are in the upper Midwest, take about 100 trips each year and so far, the volunteers have worked most of the 50 states.
The number of chapters continues to grow, she said. There are groups of middle school, high school and college students.
“We try to find different ways to give back to the communities,” Thorstad said. They help at Salvation Army locations, with conservation efforts, in nursing homes, at food pantries and many other socially active agencies. They have even made blankets for terminally ill children.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. But, it is also neat to be able to make a difference.
As for the group that stopped in Great Bend, they had already been in Marshall, Minn., West Point, Neb., and had stops in Pueblo and Denver, Colo. scheduled after Texas. Vue said each trip includes five destinations.