LORAIN — Taking a break from sitting in the classroom, an estimated 400 Lorain High School seniors went out into the community Wednesday to exercise their minds and muscles while doing good deeds.
For the second annual Lorain High School Senior Day of Service, the volunteer students signed up to volunteer at more than 25 locations in Lorain and Elyria, including El Centro de Servicios Sociales, Goodwill, local Head Start programs and Friendship Animal Protective League.
A half-dozen students were at the Salvation Army on Broadway to see how they could help their community.
Two teachers supervised some of the seniors, including Tyshawn Brown, Isaiah Carter and Cristofer Torres, as they sorted canned goods to make sure they were not past their expiration dates and put them in their proper place in the pantry.
In the kitchen downstairs, seniors Nikki Rivera and Honesty Gilliam were laughing it up with Salvation Army employee Amber Kitchen, making chili, cornbread and salad for the upcoming 11:30 a.m. hot meal.
The trio of cooks debated which pieces of cornbread were better — center or corner piece, with corner winning the vote — bragged about how good their chili smelled and had some visitors in stitches with laughter. Their meal helped serve at least seven people who showed up Wednesday.
Gilliam said the community service didn’t feel like work.
“It’s having fun,” she said.
In the lunchroom, senior Jose Marrero wrapped and handed out utensils with help from paraprofessional Diane Chizmadia. Marrero said he has done similar service with his church, while Chizmadia recalled working in soup kitchens during her school years.
Taking a break from sorting in the food pantry, Lorain High School math teacher Cheryl Draga said she tries to teach not just math but “real-world problem-solving” in her classroom. Feeding those in need is one of those problems her students can help with, as they might know someone in need.
She said they can use their gifts and talents to make a positive impact in the community and work as a team, while showing their “Lorain Pride.”
Visiting the Salvation Army, “they can see the physical needs, the emotional needs, the food needs,” Draga said. “This is certainly something that brings us together.”
Lt. Jimmy Susa of the Salvation Army said the organization was “very grateful” to the student volunteers.
The event is a partnership between Buckeye Health Plan and the Lorain County Community Action Agency. For the second year, Buckeye Health Plan sponsored T-shirts for the participating students.
Mike Hibbard, a community relations representative with Buckeye Health Plan, said the company hopes to “transform the health of the community” not just through health insurance programs but also by promoting community service and care for “mind, body and soul.”