According to KPC business student Steve Schoonmaker, the relationship that has been forged between KPC/UAA and the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank is akin to the legend of Johnny Appleseed.
"Where it felt right, or where he saw need, Johnny would plant a little black apple seed. Just one little motion, just one little thing, and where grounds would see fit a new tree would spring. A new tree would spring with apples to bring, and so in return are the seeds of giving," Schoonmaker said.
The point of his analogy is that Kenai Peninsula College/UAA students are doing their part to plant the seeds of awareness about the important role the food bank has on the peninsula.
Service learning projects benefiting the food bank have developed during the last semester in the academic disciplines of business, marketing and art. The fruits of the students' labors will be enjoyed at a fund raiser and mural dedication ceremony at the food bank (off Kalifornsky Beach Road across from the KPC sign at College Loop) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The fund raiser is sponsored by the Funny River Road Ladies, who will host a biscuits and gravy feed. The Funny River Quilters will have a raffle for a quilt donated by Elaine Rohloff. The mural will be unveiled at 12:30 p.m.
According to art Professor Celia Anderson, she and the 11 students in this semester's intermediate painting class worked more than 500 hours to produce a large, colorful mural for the food bank. It was an organized, methodical approach that started in February.
"I thought it was important that we begin by visiting the site to understand what the needs of the organization were. We toured the facility, ate lunch in the soup kitchen, interacted with the staff and met the clients who depend on the services there. Each student was asked to volunteer for at least an hour or two in order to get a feel for what goes on at the food bank and get a sense of 'place,'" Anderson said.
Anderson and her students took the mural design seriously and began the process of creating a mural by studying "historical and contemporary" murals and identified what commonalities the two had. They found most murals have a central image as the theme.
They went back to the food bank and asked the question: What one thing do we want to convey through the mural? According to Anderson, food bank director Linda Swarner didn't hesitate. The food bank wanted a sense of identity and a way to let people know what goes on inside the building. If the mural could dispel stereotypes, impart a sense of image and establish the central image of the mural as a brand that could be used in future promotions, Swarner would be happy. This would be no small task by any standards.
After the students had become familiar with the operations at the facility Anderson and her students discussed their impressions about what images would most closely symbolize the food bank. The top four images were people, fruits and vegetables, helping hands, and a bowl.
Once the design details had been decided, the next step was to decide on a site for the mural. The site is on the outside, on the north side of the building facing K-Beach Road. The location above the large, opening doors would provide maximum visibility and they chose to paint on sign boards that could be hung.
Anderson insisted the mural be done on site. Anderson said, "I thought it was critical that the students had the real life experience of being there while they worked. Having the project evolve right before the eyes of the staff and the clients was critical so that they felt a sense of ownership and partnership in the project. My students saw the everyday operation and interacted with the staff a lot. They literally worked around us for several weeks. I believe learning in this case went both ways."
Anderson said the learning project reminded her that organization is vital to successful projects and that when artists work on site it is essential they remain sensitive to the site and its inhabitants.
When asked what benefits her students got from the project Anderson said, "First and most importantly I believe it helped to dispel some stereotypes they initially had about the food bank and the state of the needy in our community. They also learned that food served there is some of the best around. I think that when the food bank donation envelopes arrive in these students' mailboxes they will be sending them in with donations enclosed."
Students from Professor Ray Zagorski's personal selling class also assisted the food bank by putting together relevant statistics to help the public understand the how, what, and why of the food bank organization.
Schoonmaker and other students in Zagorski's class determined the Kenai Peninsula food bank provides food to nearly 60 non profit agencies across the peninsula. Ninety-seven percent of the food bank financial support comes from local businesses, families and individuals. Local demands for help have increased more than 40 percent in the last year.
The class also recognized that spring is an important time to the food bank. The annual Feinstein Challenge, in its eighth straight year, will disperse $1 million among hunger fighting agencies as matching funds to the amount of donations (cash, check, and food items) collected from March 1 through April 30.
The Feinstein Foundation challenges the public to "use our money to end hunger" by doubling their individual donations during the Challenge months. According to the Feinstein Challenge Web site, past million dollar challenges to fight hunger have raised a record $350 million for agencies nationwide.
Without the help of a cadre of volunteers, the Learning Center literacy program could not reach out to nearly as many people as they do. More than 2000 hours of volunteer time has been logged since last July, all directed at helping children and adults increase their skills in all areas of literacy.
KPC/UAA recognizes the following volunteers for giving the gift of time in the spirit of increasing literacy in our community: Connie Goltz, Janice Habermann, Edna Jones, Rebecca Jorgensen, Nicole Knight, Megan LaCross, Kristin Lambert, Dagmar Mayer, Jamie Meyers, Ruth Missik, Catherine Rockwood, Gail Sather, Sandra Bell, Delores Benner, Roger Bon, Janet Brookman, Kathryn MacLeod, John McCarthy, Estelle Parks and Jan Stiers.
This column is provided by Suzie Kendrick, community relations coordinator at Kenai Peninsula College.
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