PASADENA, Calif. – The Southern Vermont College baseball team spent its Spring Break playing in the California Invitational at six collegiate institutions throughout the Los Angeles area. One of the Mountaineers' off days, however, was spent helping out at the Foothill Unity Center—a multi-service food pantry and one of the most respected and effective local nonprofits in Southern California.
The SVC players and team staff visited the Pasadena location last Tuesday and assisted in client intake and the application approval process, organizing food and preparing carts for the clients, and helping those clients pick out additional food and healthcare items before loading it all into vehicles for transport.
"It was a great experience," said Southern Vermont junior captain Niko D'Agnese (Mahopac, N.Y.). "I know a lot of our guys—going into it—were really excited, and they ended up learning a lot. They realized how grateful they really are for what they have in their lives. It was good to get out there on our off-day and spend it doing something for the community. I really enjoy helping out and doing these sorts of things off the field, and I could see us doing more of these types of things next year."
The Center annually distributes millions of pounds of food to thousands of unduplicated and very low-income families in 11 cities of Southern California: Altadena, Arcadia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Bradbury, Duarte, Irwindale, Monrovia, Pasadena, Sierra Madre, and South Pasadena.
In addition, it provides health services, motel vouchers for people who have exhausted all other resources in the search for permanent housing, screenings and access to eyewear, transitional services for victims of domestic violence, a transportation program, back-to-school programs, and Thanksgiving and holiday distributions—among many other options for its clientele.
"I am proud of our guys for the selflessness they showed on Tuesday morning," SVC head coach Dave Gage '10 remarked. "Their excitement towards the day was gratifying and one of the many reasons that being a part of the SVC baseball program is special."
Rachel Black, Volunteer Program Manager at the Pasadena location, was more than pleased and thankful to have the Mountaineers on site and able to offer their assistance.
"I think it was a 'hit,'" Black quipped. "The guys were very helpful. The team is so polite, and it was wonderful to have them. I think [the clients] really enjoyed having them here to help as well. I want to thank the team for coming out, and hopefully they can come back and join us again sometime!"
The Mountaineer players were not the only ones to participate as Gage's coaching and support staff also helped out—in addition to SVC President and Los Angeles native David Rees Evans.
"I was truly proud to be with the team during their service project at Foothill Unity Center," Evans commented. "The guys worked hard and were professional, kind, and charming to everyone they met. I appreciated them giving some of their brief time in California to volunteer to help the Center and its clients."
Each of the Southern Vermont players—from the seasoned veterans down to the team's newcomers—enjoyed their chance to live out one of the expectations from their head skipper.
"Coach Gage just wants us to be good people in general; he wants us to respect others and give back to society," said SVC freshman outfielder Nate Hickey (Bristol, Conn.). "I thought it was the experience of a lifetime. You don't get the opportunity to do something like that too often. Just to put a smile on someone's face when you give them their food and help them push their carts around… it makes you happy as a person."
Not only was the day a good chance for the Mountaineers to give back, but it was also a good chance for them to build their team dynamic.
"It helped us come together and work as a team," D'Agnese added. "It was the first thing we'd really done together as a team this year."
Hickey felt the same sentiment, saying, "I think—as a team—it helped us build confidence in ourselves. We need to keep surrounding ourselves with positive influences and never lose hope in each other. If we stay together at all times and stay positive, we can accomplish anything."
"I would like to thank the Foothill Unity Center and its staff for allowing our team to participate in a special event," Gage noted. "Their positive attitudes and appreciation for their job is something we want all of our players to resemble."
To learn more about the Center, please visit http://foothillunitycenter.org/.
– #LetsGoSVC –