It wasn’t a quiet day off from school for several students who converged on a United Way warehouse Monday morning.
They often had to raise their voices at the warehouse near Central and Washington so they could be heard across the table above the sound of old hanging file folders being torn apart.
“The paper can be recycled, and the metal can be recycled,” said Mark Stump, director of direct services for the United Way, “but not together.”
On Monday, Stump had a lot of extra hands to help. Students from across the Wichita metropolitan area were pitching in as part of a national day of service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
They went to the Give Items of Value warehouse,which holds items donated by businesses for use by area nonprofits – anything from office equipment to furniture to bedding. Some tore up file folders for recycling to clear up storage space. Others sorted donations.
“They could be sleeping in right now,” Kay Premer, the National Honor Society sponsor at Eisenhower High School in Goddard.
Instead, they met at the school at 8:30 a.m. to come to Wichita to volunteer.
“We’re having a great time,” Premer said.
The best part, she said, is getting to know each other better while working on something together.
“It’s fun,” said Sarah Kausse, a senior at Eisenhower and one of 15 members of the school’s National Honor Society to spend part of their day off volunteering at the warehouse. “It’s different from what we’ve usually done. We usually just help out at book fairs. We don’t really do a lot of hands-on stuff.”
Instead of sleeping in or playing video games on their day off from school, Eisenhower senior Riley Dohmeier said, “we’re doing something with our day.”
The warehouse has several pallets full of file folders donated by area businesses, Stump said, and recycling them will free up needed space.
While disassembling file folders doesn’t sound exciting, Northwest High sophomore Dahkota Clark said, “it’s still pretty fun.”
It gives him a chance to help out in the community, he said.
Curtiss Marlowe, senior pastor at the Immanuel House of Faith at 542 N. Indiana, paused during one of his regular visits to pick up items at the warehouse to let the students know what they’re doing isn’t just busy work.
“The work you guys do is fantastic,” Marlowe said. “You’re really helping a lot of people – a lot of people.”
Patrick Wilson and Adam Coppenbarger started volunteering at the United Way’s Give Items of Value warehouse five years ago as Mulvane High School students and have continued to help about once a month since then. Often, Coppenbarger said, that entails sorting items donated by Walmart.
They’ve sorted everything from baby formula to binders to toilet paper, he said. On this day, they were sorting Halloween decorations donated by Jo-Ann Fabric and Care stores.
It all helps, Stump told the volunteers working on Monday. By being able to pick up toilet paper and other essentials from the United Way, he said, service providers such as Immanuel can spend their modest budget on other pressing needs.
Marlowe smiled as he watched nearly two dozen volunteers at work Monday morning.
“They can get a lot of stuff done,” he said. “Many hands make light work.”