Feeding Her Passion for Helping Others
What started as a 15-hour requirement for a sociology class allowed one College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences student to find a meaningful capstone project and make a difference in the local Moscow and campus communities.
Aly Mendiola, a senior from Boise majoring in sociology, started volunteering at Trinity Baptist Food Pantry in Moscow in the fall of 2015 as part of her Introduction to Diversity and Stratification class. The students were required to volunteer for 15 hours at a community organization. As the list of possible options circled around the room, one in particular stuck out to Mendiola — volunteering at a local food bank.
“I thought that this would be a neat opportunity because it was one of the only ones where you worked directly with the people you were helping,” she said. “With others, you wouldn’t see them.”
After completing her required hours, she found herself not wanting to leave.
Mendiola got to know the clients throughout her time volunteering. It turned into something she looked forward to each week as she got to know more about the people and families who relied on the pantry.
“There was one older gentleman who would come in each week and talk with me. I would try to save him a German chocolate cake if we had one because it is his favorite,” she said.
Her experience in volunteering fueled her passion for helping others.
Even though Mendiola is a senior with a full schedule, she loaded up her plate with outside-the-classroom activities that let her make a difference.
On top of working 23 hours a week at the Moscow Day School, Mendiola interns with the UI’s Center for Volunteerism and Social Action. She also became the coordinator for the Vandal Food Pantry on campus.
She continued volunteering at the Trinity Food Bank until the organization closed its doors in early April. Even though the pantry is estimated to have provided food for approximately 1,200 people per month, the church — Trinity Baptist Church —and its volunteers could not keep up with demand or the changes in regulations implemented by the Idaho Foodbank related to food pickup and volunteer certification.
Mendiola is sad that the food bank closed because it served so many families each week, most of which used the pantry consistently. The pantry catered to many elderly, disabled and large families with a lot of children, who will now have to turn elsewhere.
Mendiola used her experience at the Trinity Food Bank as the base of her 30-page senior capstone paper. Her project focused on the different social and economic conditions that affect people who go to food pantries, such as gender, age, distance traveled, disabilities, etc. Her paper centered on the characteristics of the people who use the pantry and how to get them healthier food.
“Knowing that the people who went there would at least have some food was so relieving because a lot of the people who came in have no other means of getting food, especially when their stamps run out, and a lot of them have kids,” she said.
Mendiola plans to attend graduate school in Boise, Idaho this fall to get her master’s degree in counseling with an emphasis in school counseling. She hopes to be an elementary school counselor and continue her passion for helping others.
“This experience has given me the opportunity to work with people of all different races, religions, abilities and social classes,” she said. “That is a life skill that I will be able to benefit from in my future as a school counselor.”
Story by Laurien Mavey, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences