United Way’s Alternative Spring Break gives college students from all over the country an opportunity to get a deeper understanding of the issues that our community faces and volunteer with our partners. Together with Break A Difference, we were lucky enough to have nearly 90 enthusiastic students over the month of March. Each and every one of them was eager to get out in the community and get their hands dirty.
Shannon Dusute, team leader of her Alternative Spring Break group, is president of Student United Way at Madonna University. Let’s take a look at what her group was up to during their trip.
“We prepared and delivered meals to people with special dietary needs – those living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other challenging illnesses – with United Way’s partner, Food and Friends. My ‘high’ of that day was delivering extra food to people on the street who were homeless. They were beyond appreciative for the food we gave them. The ‘low’ was when we ran out of food. One woman came up to our car as we were about to drive away. Having to tell her we had none left was heartbreaking.”
How one young girl found her calling serving Baltimore youth
Antoinella Peterkin bubbles with energy as she talks about her plans to start a nonprofit to serve at-risk children in Baltimore. Once faced with her own challenges as a child, Antoinella is an inspiring example of how having strong positive role models can turn young girls into independent, extraordinary women.
At only 23, Antoinella has graduated from Notre Dame of Maryland University, spent two years as an AmeriCorps volunteer and spearheaded a successful girls afterschool program at Higher Achievement, an nonprofit that aims to close the opportunity gap for middle school youth.
Hank, an Army veteran who proudly served for eight years, recently started a new job at the local Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center in Baltimore, where he’s been able to save enough of his income to pay off debt and move into his own apartment nearby.
It wasn’t long ago that something so many of us take for granted -- a steady job and safe place to live -- seemed out of reach for Hank, though. After his military service ended, he returned home to Anne Arundel County, but was experiencing severe mental health issues that led to substance abuse and eventually, what was once unimaginable for Hank happened: he became homeless. Fortunately, he heard about a program funded by United Way of Central Maryland that provides services for homeless veterans, and received mental health counseling, substance abuse support, temporary housing and help finding a job.
Now that Hank is back on his feet, he continues to visit the program to support other veterans in need.
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