Appalachian State University offers students many opportunities to get involved with nonprofit organizations within the Boone community. Students are often connected through a class for service learning or through the Appalachian and the Community Together office. One such nonprofit organization is Hospitality House.
This year, students at Watauga Residential College have been collecting different items to donate. The food drive was organized by Eveland Davis and Jonathan Boone, two freshman Wataugan students, along with Patience Perry, a senior lecturer at Watauga Residential College.
“Our goal is to obtain as much food, if not more than last year,” Perry said. “Last year, the Watauga students donated over 800 pounds of food.”
Perry said that the work her students do with Hospitality House is a way for them to learn outside the walls of the classroom.
“I enjoy taking my students out of the classroom,” Perry said. “That’s a pedagogical commitment I have, to show our new freshmen that life is constantly teaching us. The most amazing lessons in our life come from people you would not deem as the traditional teacher.”
Keven White, a fifth-year senior religious studies major, has been volunteering at Hospitality House since he was a freshman, and is now on the staff of the nonprofit.
“I first started volunteering at Hospitality House through the ACT office and worked in the garden and kitchen,” White said. “My junior year I did an Alternative Service Experience and worked with different nonprofits in the local area. It’s really important to go beyond the walls of campus and see what is going on in the community when you get past King Street and Rivers Street, and kind of get out and meet new people.”
As a transitional living facility, Hospitality House stands out from average homeless shelters through its communal living practices and the jobs available to volunteers such as working in the garden or kitchen to working at the desk and interacting with residents.
“‘Homeless shelter’ has a lot of negative connotations. There are so many awful and demeaning stigmas contributed towards folks in poverty,” White said. “By calling it a facility instead of a shelter, we emphasize our focus on equity and meeting people where they’re at and helping them navigate the systems around this area.”
When working at Hospitality House, Perry said she tries to encourage her students to think beyond the manual labor they are performing and to focus on how they are bettering the community.
“I try to encourage my students to stop every once in awhile and not worry about the work, but instead attend to the relationship,” Perry said. “Our interactions make us think back to our own lives, to our own homes, to our own families, but it ultimately is a reminder to be compassionate towards all creatures. I believe [college students] have a responsibility to contribute to those in the Boone community who struggle with poverty. I believe we have a moral debt to those displaced by our wealth, and I personally seek to bridge my students with service-learning opportunities to better understand the complexity of our involvement.”
Sean Allen, a freshman exercise science major, said his experiences volunteering at Hospitality House have taught him to appreciate what he has and to give to those in need.
“Other students should be encouraged to volunteer at Hospitality House because the residents are just like you and me,” Allen said. “The most inspiring experience for me at Hospitality House would have to be observing how even the simplest generosity or contribution you give, whether that be working in the garden to provide vegetables, working in the kitchen cooking or serving food or just sitting down and talking with someone, can affect and impact someone’s day. There is nothing better than seeing how thankful an individual is for something you have done. The opportunity to volunteer at Hospitality House is one that shouldn’t be passed up.”
White said that students can offer any talents or interests they have in interactions with clients that stay at Hospitality House.
“Interacting with the people who live at Hospitality House has been the most rewarding experience,” White said. “The first thing I realized once I started getting to know the residents is that they’re just like me, but they are unfortunately a product of a system that is working against them.”
Whether students donate their time to help around the facility or volunteer with residents, working at Hospitality House offers opportunities for students to truly experience a different side of the Boone community outside of campus.
“They have a fascinating mission and vision,” Perry said. “I love that everyone is a part of the family, and that everyone is invited no matter your social or economic status. Everybody is inclusive in a pure, raw way. They’re not using power. They are open to each other with wide arms.”
If students are interested in donating to Hospitality House, the facility is currently asking for canned goods, personal hygiene products, diapers, shampoo, soap, feminine products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, instant formula and baby food, cooking oils, bagged or boxed snack foods, instant coffee and over-the counter medications.
Volunteer applications are available at hosphouse.org.
Story by: Anna Muckenfuss, Intern News Reporter
Photo by: Ben Sessoms, News Editor