MOUNT VERNON — A little can go a long way. Even the smallest amount of change or the donation of food can make a difference in hard economic times. Push Against Poverty, a student group, began a food and monetary donations drive Monday that will continue all week long. Donations collected will aid struggling families within the community.
Push Against Poverty is a grassroots operation by students from Mount Vernon Academy and Mount Vernon Nazarene University, dedicated to help struggling families in the community. The group was started by Daniel Graves, a senior at Mount Vernon Academy, with the hope of gathering the youth to reach out and help the local community through giving and volunteer work.
Push Against Poverty is partnering with Interchurch Social Services, Acts Thrift Center and The Salvation Army in the campaign.
“The money and food collected from this food drive will go directly to the families that Push Against Poverty has contacted through door-to-door surveys, and to families that Interchurch is helping out, and also families that the Acts Thrift Center is helping out,” said Graves. “The campaign has the official support of the Knox County United Way, Knox County Commissioner Allen Stockberger and Mayor Richard Mavis.”
Food and donations can be dropped off between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Interchurch, the thrift center, Mount Vernon Academy administration building, The Salvation Army or United Way. Monetary donations can be made out to Interchurch, Acts Thrift Center or The Salvation Army, in care of Push Against Poverty.
“This campaign is definitely good for the community because even though we are in an economic crisis right now, everybody is experiencing some sense of hurt due to this crisis,” said Graves. “I think it is important for us not to look to our own individual needs but to look outside of ourselves to see the needs of others who are struggling the most.
“It is important for the community to come together and rally together in this crisis, and to uplift fellow brothers and sisters who are at the bottom; I think all of us will experience some sense of joy from just giving,” he said.
Graves gains encouragement from a quote by Sir Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
“I think the community can find the true meaning of life by just giving a little bit,” said Graves. “We can also give people some relief and a sense of hope for better days for their families and for this country.”
Trisha and Larry Mercer of Mount Vernon have benefited from the help of Push Against Poverty. At the time Trisha got involved with the group, her husband had been laid off and she and her family were being evicted from their home.
“I just broke down crying,” she said.
The students were going door to door taking surveys about what families needed, and that is when group members met the Mercers. After Trisha told them her situation, the students rallied to see what they could do; on the second visit to the Mercers, the students brought a food basket and agreed to help.
Although the Mercers had found a place to stay, the new house was in disarray and in need of improvements. Within a couple of weeks, about 30 students volunteered their time to assist the Mercers in cleaning out their new home and doing repairs so the family could move in.
“They came in and helped us tremendously, all of them,” said Trisha. “They came in and helped us remove all the trash from the house. ... We were able to move a lot further than where we would have been by now.”
Even with the hard times, the Mercers try to give back to the community in what ways they can.
“Even though we don’t have much, we put change in The Salvation Army [donation bucket]. Bryce, he’s 4, and he thinks we’re getting help because we are helping other people. I told him we don’t have much money but our [donation] will help somebody,” said Trisha. “I try to help anyone I can.
“I think that if everyone will look at this program and see that the smallest things they do, can change someone’s life ... the world would be a better place,” said Trisha. “I am so grateful for all of the students’ help.”
The campaign will end on Sunday 2 p.m. with a free concert at the Memorial Theater, given by the Mount Vernon Academy Acholiers and Bells choirs. Community members will have a chance to drop off food and monetary donations during the concert as well.