March 27, 2015 | By John Perney
During first-year orientation in the fall, brand-new Albion students often hear that one of the most important things they will learn as college students are time-management and organizational skills.
For Autumn Bernicky, '16, she has built up those skills to the max as president of the College's Student Volunteer Bureau.
"My mom asks for help with planning things, because she knows I've planned a million events," says Bernicky, a biochemistry major and member of the Institute for Healthcare Professions from Plainfield, Illinois. "My grandparents have their 50th anniversary coming up, and she's like, ‘You're going to help me, right?'"
The last two years, those events have included SVB's Kids Against Hunger meal-packing drive, where organization is particularly crucial. Lined up among rows of tables, hairnets securely fastened, more than 80 students (including some from nearby colleges) gathered in the Kellogg Center's Gerstacker Commons last Saturday, March 21, to measure rice, chicken, and soy protein; to add the right amount of dried vegetables; to include other necessary vitamins and to package it all up for shipment to individuals and families in need. Ten thousand meals in all.
"It actually went by faster than I anticipated because we had so many people. Now we're thinking of doing 15,000 next year," said Bernicky, adding that the national Kids Against Hunger organization drops off everything (food, equipment, packaging) the morning of the event, with the delivery paid for through SVB funds.
This year, half of the meals will be distributed locally while the other half is bound for Sierra Leone, one of the West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola epidemic. An undercurrent of the situation is that farmers, in large part, were unable to plant or maintain their crops during the peak of the crisis last year.
"People were told to stay in their houses, so they don't have all the food they need," Bernicky (right) said. "These meals are designed so that you have all of your nutritional means for the day. All you have to do is put it in boiling water. It's easy to cook wherever you are—you can cook it over a campfire or a stove."
Bernicky's volunteering interests took her to Nicaragua in January as part of the College's Global Medical Brigades chapter. And during November and December, SVB's annual Adopt-a-Family drive helped Albion Interfaith Ministries provide holiday gifts for 45 area families.
"I did a little bit [of volunteer work] in high school, but it wasn't a passion of mine until I got to college," said Bernicky, who signed up for SVB at Briton Bash during her first weeks on campus and hasn't looked back. "I think for me it's just about helping people where there's a need. That's my motivation for becoming a physician."