Not long after Helen Mandalinic ’14 arrived at Guilford in 2010, she began volunteering with the Community Kitchens Project, a program that packages cafeteria leftovers into meals and delivers those meals to the area’s needy.
She quickly realized her passion for service didn’t need to be put on hold for her studies, and her education at Guilford would extend beyond the classroom and the campus.
“I took on the project and felt like it really spoke to me,” Helen said. “Going out there and understanding that communities are different and each community has different needs was fascinating to me. The project showed me what can be done locally and how that can impact the bigger picture.”
Since then the community and justice studies major from Winchester, Va., has continued to help feed the hungry. For the past two years, she has done so as one of the College’s two Bonner Hunger Fellows.
She helped establish the on-campus Guilford Farmers Market and a Mobile Market that brings fresh produce to low-income neighborhoods. She led the creation of the Guilford College Food Pantry for students and staff. She coordinated the Soup Bowl food drive, which collected 6,000 pounds of donations for local food banks, and organized a Stop Hunger Now event that packaged 10,000 meals for international distribution.
“Helen has been a major force in furthering food justice,” said James Shields, director of Guilford’s Bonner Center for Community Service and Learning. “Her work also gives Guilford students opportunities to understand and address local and regional hunger issues.”
Her tireless work on behalf of the hungry earned Helen a 2013 Community Impact Student Award. North Carolina Campus Compact, an association of colleges and universities committed to fostering campus-community engagement, presents only 19 of the awards statewide each year.
“It’s not easy,” Helen said of helping those in need. “It’s a very personal, challenging job. If you see yourself in their position once, you can empathize with that. Sometimes you have to go home and have a good cry.”
But the heartache is far outweighed by the gratification of making a difference. And the College community provides steadfast support.
“Guilford has given my voice confidence,” she said. “This community empowers students.”