JSU Professor and Students Help Feed the Area Hungry
By Heather Greene
When Stephen Tsikalas, JSU assistant professor of geography, began volunteering at the Community Food Bank in Birmingham with his wife Jade Patolo, an adjunct instructor of geography currently serving in the Peace Corps, he was inspired to bring a similar program to the Calhoun County area.
After some research, the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama gave Tsikalas permission to proceed with planning a distribution site for this area of the state. Now, on the last Friday of the month, food is distributed at the Jacksonville Community Center and First Baptist Church of Williams by JSU faculty and students.
Ben Williams, a 22-year-old music education major and drum line section leader for the Marching Southerners, started the Secular Student Alliance at JSU last year as an outlet for community service. When he first heard about the new food distribution center, he knew it was something the club would want to support.
“Volunteering is important to me because I believe American college students are some of the most privileged people on the planet,” said Williams. “While that’s a great thing, we also need to remember that the vast majority of people on Earth don’t get the opportunities we have. Working in service of others is my way of paying it forward.”
For Allen Jones, a 26-year-old senior majoring in geography, the mission of the Community Food Bank hit close to home. At age 20, he quit college and got a full-time job. Despite working 40 hours a week, he had a hard time making ends meet.
“After paying rent, power, water and internet, it did not really leave much for food,” said Jones, who volunteers at the distribution center as a member of Geography Club. “Knowing how hard it can be to provide food for just myself, I cannot imagine the stress involved with trying to provide food for an entire family. This food bank is important to me because most people have a lot of stress in their lives, and I feel like food should not be something people have to stress about.”
The food distribution center is always looking for volunteers, whether they’re JSU faculty, staff, students or members of the community. To lend a hand, come out to one of the distribution sites at 2:15 p.m. on the last Friday of the month. Those in need of food are invited to either site at 3 p.m. Grocery boxes are distributed on a first come, first served, basis. Sites are open until 5 p.m. While proof of need is not required, anyone receiving or qualifying to receive SNAP/Food
Stamps, TANF, SSI, or meeting certain income guidelines is eligible to receive food.
Jon Barnacastle serves as the primary contact for the Jacksonville Community Center and Les Honts is the primary contact for the First Baptist Church of Williams. For more information on how you can get involved, please email Stephen Tsikalas.
JSU students, along with Dr. Stephen Tsikalas (second from right), volunteer monthly for the Community Food Bank. From left are Thomas Bell, Jacob Bramlett, Allen Jones, Rodney Tillery, Lynsey Hall, Torie Watson, Nick Gray, Tsikalas, and Ben Williams. (Angie Finley/JSU)