Some University of South Carolina students on Wednesday put their leftover lunch money to work for a good cause.
About seven freshmen and sophomores took a break from studying for final exams to walk through USC’s Russell House cafeteria, filling their arms with boxes of Rice Krispies Treats, blueberry Pop-Tarts, chips and more.
They swiped their Carolina Cards to pay for the goods, draining most of their remaining meal plan dollars – which do not roll over to next semester. They then delivered the goods, which filled several large boxes and bags, to Oliver Gospel Mission, at Main and Assembly streets, which runs a men’s drug and alcohol recovery program and provides breakfast and dinner to the homeless and needy.
“I think to give back to the community in even a small way like this is huge,” said Lily Houston, 18, a freshman business major who swiped her card for $90 worth of granola bars.
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Kacey Elman, 18, a freshman pre-pharmacy major who helped plan the donation, said she and her friends thought of the idea a few days ago while leaving the library. They talked about how each of them had from $50 to $100 or more in meal plan dollars left with just days remaining in the semester.
Rather than stock up on unnecessary items or see those funds to go waste, they decided to put the money to good use.
Elman, from Beltsville, Md., said they originally hoped to buy hot meals for the needy but found it more practical to donate nonperishable goods. Elman said she Googled homeless shelters in Columbia and was impressed with Oliver Gospel Mission’s programs.
Beth Well, the Mission’s director of stewardship and public relations, said the goods would go to the 34 men in the recovery program and might be included in the food line for the homeless. Well said the students’ donation was “awesome.”
“This is the next generation that’s coming up that really cares,” Well said. “And for them to start at this age and really have a philanthropy spirit about them really means a lot.”
The group gathered outside Russell House student union to dump the goods into large boxes for delivery. They already had bought some of the items, including dozens of bags of chips. Other goods were donated by classmates who had heard of the plans but didn’t have time Wednesday to help make the delivery.
A few students who walked by noticed and decided to help, heading into the cafeteria and returning with bags full of goods.
Ben Warner, 18, a freshman civil engineering major from Hilton Head Island, said he probably spent more than $100 on goods, emptying out most of his balance. “It just feels good to give back,” Warner said. “We’re privileged so much, so we’re giving to those who are not as privileged as we are.”
Katie Morgan, a 19-year-old freshman nursing major who also helped organize the drive, said she was happy with the turnout. “I think it’s a good idea for broke college kids to be able to help the homeless without spending money since we obviously don’t have that much money right now,” Morgan, who is from Richmond, Va., said. “I think this is a good way for us to give back to the city.”