“by Tanja Staben”
Right before Thanksgiving, between Nov. 18-23, Rocky Mountain College is going to host a Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Shayla Brown, the head of Rocky´s Community Engagement Office, explains, “People may not relate to hunger and homelessness, but it is a big problem.” According to the Billings Gazette, In 2017, 431 people were homeless in Billings at any given time. “Approximately one in nine Montanans struggle with hunger, and nearly 37,000 children live in food-insecure homes,” said the Montana Food Bank Network.
The Community Engagement Office and the Spiritual Life Office are responsible for this week. In addition, Spiritual Life believes in putting faith into action. Even though both these institutions sponsored the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, eight students volunteer and are in charge of different events. “The Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is student lead,” states Brown. “Our goal is to educate about this severe problem and provide opportunities to volunteer.”
The week starts with a big event on Monday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. Students can watch the movie The Pursuit of Happiness, starring Will Smith in the Fraley Lounge. The drama is about a single father who experiences homelessness with his son. “It is a very mainstream Hollywood movie, but also very powerful and good,” says Brown, who is really looking forward to this big event. “We are planning on having a pajama party with beverages like hot cocoa. We want to put a fun spin on a very hard topic.”
On Tuesday, the Rocky community will serve lunch at the HUB, a part of the Mental Health Center in Billings that supports homeless individuals. In the evening, the weekly Coffee & Conversation is going to surround the topic of mental health and homelessness.
On Wednesday there will be a fundraiser at YourPie in Billings. Twenty percent of every purchase gets donated to Tumbleweed, an institution that deals with homeless teenagers.
Thursday is World Kindness Day. Starting at 11 a.m., and ending at 5 p.m., the goal is to prepare 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the help of volunteers. In comparison, on a normal Peanut Butter and Jelly Thursday, students make approximately 80 sandwiches during lunchtime in the Fraley Lounge.
A Lunch & Learn is offered on Friday at 1 p.m. in the Chapel. It will deal with the Montana Rescue Mission, which is a shelter for women, men, and children.
The poverty-focused service Saturday is going to close the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. “50 freshmen are registered so far, but we are still looking for more,” stated Brown.
The topic of hunger and homelessness is important because “it impacts our community,” Brown said. “People need to know what their neighbors experience and learn the act of compassion.” She hopes that “people will serve their neighbors more and show compassion for other people as well as just understand the issue because it is more prevalent than most people think.”
Fall 2019 is the second time that RMC is hosting a Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. “The turn-out last year was good, but it kept smaller in general. We hope to increase the turn-out this year, especially with our big events on Monday and Thursday,” said Brown.
Most of the time, students can just show up to the events and participate. Only specific events, such as the Lunch & Learn, and the Service Saturday, require participants to sign up in advance. Even if people do not want to participate, facts about hunger and homelessness awareness will be spread throughout the SUB, so that students and faculty have the opportunity to learn about this issue.
Brown believes that education can improve the issue. “Being aware of what you are using, being aware of donating things instead of throwing them away and being aware of giving back in the form of food, clothes, and especially time might improve the big problem. Just get to know about the issue because there is not a specific look for hunger and homelessness.”
If you want to help and volunteer in the upcoming hunger and homelessness awareness week, serving lunch at the HUB every month, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every Thursday, and organizing a few food donation drives throughout a semester, feel free to contact Sydney.Meyer@rocky.edu or Shayla.Brown@rocky.edu for more information. “We are always looking for new people to get involved,” says Brown.
Brown’s final message for the Rocky community is, “Just be open to learn something new during the hunger and homelessness awareness week.”