University Relations and Communications
Salvation Army applauds MSU Billings for community service involvement
University Relations and Communications, 657-2266
MSU BILLINGS NEWS— Every evening, the Salvation Army loads two buses full of sacked meals to serve to kids, families, and individuals within low income neighborhoods throughout the Billings community. One of the non-profit’s long-time community partners is Montana State University Billings.
Through the Center for Engagement, Night on the Van collaborates with the Salvation Army to provide enough volunteer support to hand out between 300-400 meals per night. It is estimated that MSU Billings students, faculty, and staff pass out more than 10,000 meals per year.
Since 2011, MSU Billings has been involved with the program. Under the direction of Peter Buchanan, Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Center for Engagement, the community service program has expanded to add more opportunities for MSUB students, faculty, and staff to volunteer three nights per week in summer and two nights per week in fall. “It’s really nice to have the problem of needing to find more days to fill and serve,” commented Buchanan.
Night on the Van has helped feed over 10,000 meals in any given year to the homeless and low-income people of Billings. This year, there are 360 families in Billings who have cards to receive meals.
Homelessness continues to impact Billings; however, it also impacts families in an unseen way. Many of the families that receive meals from The Salvation Army have multiple families living with them. These over-crowded situations make it difficult to have enough food in the home, even if the families receive other food supports. There are the unseen homeless people who are couch surfing.
“Many students report that the experience is eye opening,” said Family Services Director Bethany Allen, “They may have lived in Billings their entire life but never knew there were so many in our community that were either homeless or hungry. This perspective builds within students a deeper desire to help those less fortunate and often it causes them to come back and volunteer again.”
Through the participation of MSUB, these families can have the food resources they need to provide for multiple families living within a home and in turn have more funds to stay in stable housing.
Night on the Van is integrated into service learning and other curricula on campus. On average, MSU Billings provides 90 to 100 unique volunteers each academic year and approximately 20 percent of volunteers complete recurring shifts for Night on the Van. For fall semester, MSUB is at 68 percent capacity of the volunteer spots for Night on the Van.
“It’s a nice opportunity to get students and individuals involved in volunteering, especially if they haven’t volunteered before,” shared Buchanan. “It’s a grounding and rewarding experience with tangible and impactful results in civic and community engagement.”
Earlier this month Captains Donald and Kim Warriner of the Salvation Army presented an appreciation plaque to Chancellor Dan Edelman on behalf of MSU Billings to recognize the integral role MSUB fulfills through Night on the Van.
“This is a meaningful and impactful service to our community and one that I am proud we have engaged with for the past six years,” remarked Chancellor Edelman. “This project lays the groundwork for students to begin a lifetime of volunteer service.”
For more information, contact Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Center for Engagement Peter Buchanan at email@example.com or (406) 896-5817.