Paige Fuller – Student and Volunteer Co-Ordinator Extraordinaire
As Director of the pantry, I was recently pleasantly surprised by the woman who coordinates our student volunteers from Old Rochester Regional High School – she is 17!! For over a year, I assumed the person on the other end of the emails, who started and coordinates the program that provides student volunteers to the pantry, was a faculty member or parent, but, no, it’s Paige Fuller, a junior at the school! The following is an interview I had with Paige about how and why she started the program and some of the interesting results of her endeavor:
How old are you, Paige? What year of school are you in? What town do you live in?
I am 17 years old and I am a Junior at Old Rochester Regional Senior High school. Currently, I live in Marion.
What made you decide to start to organize your fellow classmates into a volunteering schedule for our pantry?
At the start of Freshman year, I joined my school’s Community Service Learning Club. Essentially, the club works to provide community service opportunities to the student body. However, most of the opportunities were one-time commitments. I wished that there were more consistent and scheduled opportunities that would be of access to students all year long. Therefore, I decided to research local community service facilities in hopes to bring a consistent community service outlet to ORR. Shortly after, I came across Damien’s Pantry, reached out, and started organizing a weekly schedule for students to volunteer each Saturday.
Were there other non-proﬁts you thought to help? What made you decide to help us at Damien’s Pantry?
Upon researching Community Service facilities, I came across many pantries in the Southeastern Massachusetts region. However, Damien’s pantry was the most local. I really loved the idea of students being able to help people within their own communities. Further, I felt as though local community service would provide students with an opportunity to become closer to their community, broaden their horizons, and help them understand the needs of their own society and the population. As soon as I reached out to Damien’s Pantry, I could immediately sense that it was an environment where these values could be instilled in the students.
What were your classmates’ initial reactions to the idea of volunteering at the pantry? Did you have a hard time getting them to sign up at ﬁrst, or were their reactions pretty positive?
After setting up the volunteer schedule for the pantry, I was hesitant about how it would be received and how many students would be interested. Therefore, I initially just opened the opportunity up to Community Service Learning Club members. Although there was a signiﬁcant amount of interest within the club, I realized that I could garner far more participation if I were to advertise the opportunity to the student body. Therefore, I decided to post the pantry volunteer sign up to “The Week Ahead” – Old Rochester’s weekly newsletter. Immediately, an abundance of students were interested. I was confronted with what felt like 100 emails, many vocalizing interest in volunteering. To this day, the Damien’s Pantry remains an extremely popular volunteering opportunity within the entire student body.
Do you ever hear from any of the students after they have volunteered at the pantry? Do you get a sense of how they feel about volunteering? Are any surprised about the number of clients that come for food?
I was one of the ﬁrst students to venture out to Damien’s pantry. Straight away I was confronted with such an uplifting and positive environment. Not only were the volunteers extremely kind-hearted and welcoming, but I l also loved being able to feel my impact as hundreds of grocery carts were distributed within just a few hours! After that ﬁrst day, I was excited to return. After a couple months of volunteering went by, I reached out to other students to see if they shared my same feelings and the responses were incredibly positive. Most students emphasized the pantry’s positive, driven and selﬂess environment, so much so that these same students were eager to return week after week.
Do you plan to hand oﬀ this project to a younger student in the school to ensure this program continues?
I certainly would love to hand this program to the underclassmen before I graduate in order to ensure that it continues. I think it is crucial that all future ORR students have this opportunity, so that they too can discover the value of community service and hopefully continue to volunteer throughout their lives.
Well, even if it doesn’t continue, you’ve done a remarkable thing for so many people and you should be extremely proud of yourself!! You are a remarkable, young woman!! Last question, because I’m sure a lot of people would be curious, what would you like to do as a career when you leave school?
As far as my future career path is concerned, I am still undecided. However, I have an interest in studying management and marketing in college and from there I’ll see where life takes me!