|November 28, 2011|
Students. Athletes. Change Agents.
MSU Billings basketball team spends afternoon with community service agency
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — When he was 10 years old, Antoine Proctor was a kid in need of a happy holiday. His mother was incarcerated and his grandmother took him to a Washington, D.C. social services agency where he got a Christmas gift thanks to the kindness of others.
Last Wednesday afternoon, the 24-year-old Montana State University Billings student athlete got a chance to return a bit of that favor by helping organize the toy area and do some heavy lifting at the St. Vincent de Paul facilities in Billings.
And the importance of that small act of good work wasn’t lost on him.
“I was once a kid who needed a Christmas present and help due to my mother’s situation and it was probably a place like this where I got it,” he said.
Proctor didn’t stay around long to reflect on the past. Soon, he was a part of a blur activity with his fellow MSU Billings men’s basketball teammates.
Proctor and other members of the Yellowjacket basketball team were on Montana Avenue for a few hours last week to lend a hand with holiday season preparations with St. Vincent de Paul. The agency’s Charitable Works Office serves the toy store next door and the thrift store down the street functions as a major point of connection for the homeless and needy in Billings.
Working with the U.S. Marine Corps “Toys for Tots” campaign, the agency will collecting and distributing toys for kids and families who are in special need this holiday season. Last year, St. Vincent de Paul provided toys, games, action figures and books to 1,400 children in the Billings area, according to Glynis Burchell, the volunteer coordinator for the agency. This year, thanks to continued economic hard times, the number could go even higher.
Accustomed to providing each other with assists on the court, the basketball team decided it was a good time to assist others.
“Any time we can get out in the community to help is important to the university and our team,” said first-year head men’s basketball coach Jamie Stevens. “And what’s better is this is a really good group of guys.”
Proctor, a senior mass communications major, said he appreciated doing the service work not only because of his personal history, but because it helps broaden his perspective.
“It’s good to step back and take a look at the bigger picture,” he said.
Others on the team agreed with that perspective.
“There are obviously a lot of kids who don’t have this kind of stuff for their Christmas,” said Emery Henning, a senior student-athlete from Great Falls. “I was fortunate enough to always have what I needed.”
Burchell and her colleagues at St. Vincent DePaul didn’t take long putting the team to work. Some were tasked with sweeping up and sorting items for the toy store while others helped move tables and chairs in preparation for a busy Thanksgiving weekend in the office. They then moved to the thrift store to help sort items and put up Christmas trees for holiday shoppers.
St. Vincent de Paul in Billings has only seven full-time employees and relies heavily on volunteer labor for organization and day-to-day chores. When a dozen student athletes come to help for an afternoon, the impact is priceless, Burchell said.
“They essentially give us some full-time help for a day,” she said. “Without volunteers, we could not run.”
The volunteer and community outreach effort is something the team will likely continue, Stevens said. They made outreach to a Billings elementary school earlier in the fall and will work on mixing on-the-court performance with off-the-court service.
It’s also something other teams do at MSU Billings. During the past year, the women’s basketball team has worked on breast cancer awareness and the women’s soccer team worked on raising money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Montana.
PHOTOS ABOVE: MSU Billings men’s basketball teammates Emery Henning, left, David Arnold, and Robert Mayes put together an imitation Christmas tree at St. Vincent de Paul last week. The student athletes were volunteering at the local social service agency to help them prepare for a busy holiday season. Below, Taylor Stevens, left, and Antoine Proctor move a table in the St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Works Office.