by EMILY SCHNACKY
University of Minnesota Duluth student organization S.E.R.V.E. (Students Engaged in Rewarding Volunteer Experiences) members shared their time and compassion at Fruit of the Vine food shelf at the Vineyard Christian Church Tuesday Nov. 16.
Seventeen members of S.E.R.V.E. along with other community volunteers helped 50 clients pick out a wide assortment of food according to how many people are in their family. While the clients waited they enjoyed coffee, pastries, mingled with volunteers and were offered free medical services. Fruit of the Vine's goal is to nourish the entire person physically, emotionally and spiritually.
"We usually go through about 10,000 pounds of food and serve about 500 people a month," said Edeanne Aiken, director of the Fruit of the Vine Food Shelf. "It's more than just food though. Fruit of the Vine's main goal is that everyone who walks through the door will feel loved and cared for."
With economic woes and unemployment rising, the need for food assistance is increasing. Fruit of the Vine opens its doors every Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. and every Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. to help feed those in need.
Nearly one in every three people who lives in Duluth struggles to get by on a daily basis. According to the 2000 Census, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, Duluth has 12,627 individuals living below the poverty line. That is 15.5 percent of the population, which is larger than Minnesota's average poverty rate at 8.1 percent.
"People that come through the doors are from all walks of life," Aiken said. "We get people that come that are homeless, people that are working families with children, and people who are working multiple jobs to make ends meet."
Every dollar donated to Fruit of the Vine goes to the purchase $10 worth of groceries from a local food bank. Fruit of the Vine has a wide assortment of foods ranging from fresh meats, breads, vegetables, fruits, grains, and even sugar cookies for the upcoming holiday that those in need pick from.
"I was amazed by the amount of food they had. I didn't expect there to be such a wide variety of choices for their clients," S.E.R.V.E. marketing representative Katie Martineau said. "It shows that there are organizations that truly do care about those in need."
S.E.R.V.E. has been an organization on the UMD campus for over 30 years. They maintain volunteer contacts throughout Duluth and serve as a bridge between students and the community. S.E.R.V.E. members volunteer at multiple events throughout the year. The Alzheimer's Walk, Diabetes Walk, and Boo at the Zoo are a few of S.E.R.V.E. Secretary Mindy Martin's favorites.
"It's a great way to give back to the community," Martineau said. "It makes me feel good about myself that I can help others without expecting something in return. I wish more people in the world would give some of their time to help people who are less fortunate."