Buck-I-SERV students at an alumni dinner in Washington D.C. over spring break. Courtesy: Mary Jenkins

Over spring break, eight Buck-I-SERV members traveled to Washington D.C., to volunteer with a local nonprofit called Food & Friends.

Buck-I-SERV provides the opportunity to incorporate traveling, learning and serving through direct service to a community, according to Ryan Welch, a third-year in biology. Food & Friends is an organization that provides groceries, meals and nutrition counseling to improve the lives of those impacted by severe illness.

During the trip, students packaged and delivered meals and groceries to individuals with severe illnesses.

“It was rewarding to see how our indirect service would have an impact on people in the D.C. area and how grateful they were for their food deliveries,” Mary Jenkins, a third-year in world language education, said.

Welch said he was interested in learning about a community with which he was previously unfamiliar with and creating new experiences. Being fully engaged while serving allows one to learn about a new community and relevant social issues impacting the daily lives of the citizens, Welch said.

The students spent six days in the capital, four of which were spent volunteering with Food & Friends.

“The ultimate goal is to make active citizens out of the participants, that way their outlook on service turns into a lifestyle rather than just ending after the trip is over,” Welch said.

Jenkins said she enjoyed getting to apply her Spanish language skills with some of the clients during the food deliveries.

On the third evening of the trip, they were also able to meet for dinner with members of the Ohio State University Alumni Club of Greater Washington, D.C.

“Buck-I-SERV tries to reach out to an alumni group on every trip as a cool way to get to know some of the alumni and have them share some of their experiences with us,” Welch said. “We all seemed to bond with the alumni by talking about D.C., the service we were doing and similar experiences we shared while at Ohio State.”

Renita Upshur, Ohio State alumna and elementary school teacher in D.C., said the board was honored to have the Buck-I-SERV students visit.

“They were such a gracious and thoughtful group who exude top qualities we look for in the future of our country and our alumni base,” Upshur, a member of the city’s alumni club, said. “They gave the gift of their time and hearts. We can’t thank them enough for the opportunity to share their Buckeye journey.”

Both Jenkins and Welch are repeat Buck-I-SERV tripgoers, both being eager for more opportunities to travel and give back.

“I think all of us learned a lot about both the community we were serving,” Welch said. “We got to see the positive impact this kind of service can have on communities first hand.”