A group of Brigham Young University-Idaho social work majors have joined forces with the school’s I-Serve organization and the Rexburg Mobile Food Pantry to deliver food boxes to the elderly.
Stefanie Birrer, Christopher Tena and Joan Davis recently created the joint venture.
I-Serve, as the name implies, is dedicated to serving those in need on campus and in the community.
Every month, they and fellow I-Serve BYU-Idaho students pick up boxes at the pantry that’s held the third Tuesday of the month at the Wilcox Warehouse in Thornton. From there, they take the boxes to area seniors who are experiencing food insecurity.
“It’s really a fantastic thing that they started,” said RMFP organizer Jessica Goudy. “There’s a huge need.”
Goudy says that while some elderly attend the monthly food pantry, many others can’t because of illness, bad weather, no car or not being able to drive, and an inability to carry 40-pound food boxes into their homes.
Tena said that in March, the I-Serve group delivered food for 29 senior citizens.
“We expect that number to probably double this month because it tripled last month. We had like seven,” he said. “We wanted to start really small and get the kinks out. (We said) ‘Now we know what we’re doing, and we’ll go to 29.’ We hope to get double — around 60 — this month.”
Tena said they reached out to elderly residents by explaining the program as they went door to door at apartments where those in their golden years live.
“All have been very accepting and humble. They explained because of COVID, and age in general, they can’t get out of the house,” he said. “(They’ve said) sometimes ‘It’s hard to make it through the month.’ Family members haven’t been visiting as much because of COVID. They’re happy to get some food from the food bank.”
The project is the result of a class assignment where Birrer, Tena and Davis were asked to come up with a project to help the community.
Birrer later met with the Rexburg City Council to see who in the community needed help.
“They just mentioned the seniors in need of getting food especially through the coronavirus. I talked with Jessica about the food pantry, and she said it would helpful to get the food to the seniors,” Birrer said.
While the class didn’t require Birrer, Tena and Davis to implement their project, they opted to do so anyway.
“We just decided it would be helpful,” Birrer said.
Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill said he was delighted that the students had followed through with their idea.
“I think that’s wonderful that the BYU-Idaho students would have enough concern for the elderly folks in our community that they would do that. I think that’s really awesome,” he said.
Goudy was equally grateful for Birrer reaching out to her.
“She’s a beautiful human being, “ Goudy said.
Birrer noted how well organized the monthly food pantry is.
“The first time I drove up, I remember being awestruck by so many awesome volunteers. They all have smiles on their faces. Jessica has done an amazing job,” she said.
Birrer says that the BYU-Idaho I-Serve students have been wonderful to work with.
“You feel so much love doing it. The sweet grandparents — they’re so kind. It’s good for the students and the grandparents. They all appreciate the connection,” she said.
Birrer has found helping deliver the food to the elderly personally rewarding.
“I love serving. It’s usually one-on-one. It’s fun,” she said.
Birrer is a longtime Rexburg resident and plans to continue to help with the I-Serve program and the food pantry in delivering food pantry boxes to the elderly for the foreseeable future.
“We’ll keep it going for as long as we can. We have a five-year plan with our team. I-Serve is really solid. So is the food pantry. We feel it will be something that will last,” she said.
Merrill said that the students’ efforts demonstrate how much the university and its students provide in support for Rexburg.
“It just shows they are great people, and they care about the community by doing good things even though they may not be long-term residents,” he said. “It just backs up what I’ve always said, ‘We have the best university students right here in Rexburg.’ This is just another proof of it.”
For more information on the program visit https://www.byui.edu/student-support/events/i-serve/i-serve-programs.