An Experience With the Interfaith Hospitality Network

The Interfaith Hospitality Network logo.

The Interfaith Hospitality Network logo.

About a month ago, I spent the evening at a homeless shelter through Interfaith Hospitality Network out of Rochester. Typically families spend the night in various churches in the area that donate their space to the organization. Each week the families move to a different location on Sunday. When I went, I stayed in an actual house that the church in Eyota owned.

I was extremely nervous about staying there. However, I was not nervous for the reasons I think most people would be such as concern for their safety, I was just nervous and anxious because of the unknown. Whenever I am forced to put myself in unknown situations I am worried that things will be awkward or uncomfortable which causes anxiety for myself. For these reasons I asked my sister to come with me for this experience. I also thought it would be something new for her and maybe an eye opening experience. The evening went well, and looking back I should not have been so nervous for the experience! I definitely think going with someone else made things a lot easier.

The organization supports four families at a time, and I was able to observe the families’ interactions. They didn’t communicate much with me, but it was interesting just to see their interactions with each other. I could tell the families appreciated being able to stay in a home vs. a church for a few nights. I arrived around 8pm so I got to see the families coming in from work. They all ate a snack and let the children play with toys before going to bed. It was obvious that the parents were all exhausted. My sister and I were responsible for making sure the house was locked up when everyone arrived.

We slept on an air mattress in the living room, and each family had their own room. At 7:30 the next morning, another volunteer arrived to cook a hot breakfast for the families, which is done on the weekends. Although they were staying in a home, the things they had to use/play with were limited and used. Games were missing pieces; movies were very old and outdated. There were limited options for toys for the children. They also could use new bedding (blankets, pillows, etc.).

IMG_1281      IMG_1280

Something important that I think that our general society doesn’t understand is that anyone can become homeless. There is such a stigma attached with homeless people that they are lazy or use drugs. This experience just totally proved those stigmas wrong. At Interfaith Hospitality Network all parents are drug tested before being able to be a part of the organization. On top of that, the four families that were staying when I volunteered were all working as well. It’s unfortunate that that negative stigma is what so many people believe. I think if more people understood that it could happen to anyone, there might be more support and help for those in need.

-Ashley Martin

Make a Difference and Skip a Meal


Even though National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (Nov. 14-20) is coming to an end, you can still make a difference.

Hunger is something that we too often forget about when we live in a society where food is always right at our fingertips. Eventhough we are college students and feel like we are going to go hungry when we cannot afford to eat out on a Saturday night, we still have a pantry full of food at home. The truth is that the majority of us are blessed more than we may realize. About 1 in 9 people go to bed hungry every night.  The truth is that you can make a difference.


In high school I led an event called One Meal One Day through a non-profit organization called Compassion International.  The event encouraged people in my school and community to skip a meal and donate the money they would have spent on that meal.  The money we raised was sent to Compassion International to be dispersed around the world to help feed families who have been living with growling, empty tummies every single day.

It does not take a certain, special person to make a difference in the life of someone else. Anyone can decide to step up and make a difference. All you have to do is make that first step and decide to do something outside of yourself. Are you willing to step up?

What if every one of us at Winona State University decided to skip a meal and give the money we would have spent to someone living in dire need?  Think about the impact that could make. Do you think it’s possible?  I do.


If you think skipping a meal will be too difficult for you or you don’t eat actual meals throughout the day because you are a typical college student, think outside the box. Think about that $5 drink you get from Mugby Junction every morning. Think about that new album you are going to download on iTunes. Think about the money you are going to spend on getting your nails done next week. What if instead of spending money on those things this week, we simply skipped them and used that money to support a family in need? This may even seem like a shock to you or something that you just could not bare to give up. Well, let’s think of a different idea.

What about instead of giving useless Christmas presents to your family this year, you gave money in their name to a non-profit organization like Compassion International? Or, next time you are at the grocery store, throw a couple extra of extra canned goods in your cart and donate them to the local food pantry. Get the idea? There is a limitless amount of ways for you to make a difference in the life of just one person.


Ronald Reagan said, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”  This is so true.  No one is asking you to solve world hunger by yourself.  But together, we can make a huge difference.

It’s one day.  It’s one meal.  It’s one person.  It’s you.

-Erin Kloepping

My Volunteer Experience with Family Promise

The Family Promise organization logo.

The Family Promise organization logo.

Volunteering with Family Promise in Rochester was an experience I was quite anxious and excited to take part in. I love having the opportunity to try new things and learn about the world around me. What had me most excited was the opportunity to get to know about some of the issues that the Rochester community is facing on a daily basis, such as homelessness.

What made this experience so enjoyable and less nerve racking was doing this with my classmate. In any new situation it can be slightly intimidating, but having someone there with me who also hasn’t done anything like this really helped put me at ease since neither one of us knew where to go or what we were doing.

Our challenge began when we arrived to the church, Christ United Methodist in Rochester. From the outside, the church looked fairly small and is an area that I had not spent any time in. Once we walked across the street (carrying our blankets, pillows and overnight bag), we walked in to what turned out to be a very large and beautiful church. The choir was upstairs practicing so we tried to quietly navigate our way around the church to find out where we needed to be. Once we got to the opposite end of the church, we found the stairs, made our way down, and navigated the many halls of the basement to find the coordinator in the kitchen. We were warmly greeted and were given our instructions for the evening.

It was in the midst of our conversations that we were able to have our first interactions with those who were staying at the church. Two brothers came out together to return a game they were playing because it was missing some pieces. Because it had been fairly quiet in the church halls, we took that opportunity to introduce ourselves to them and open ourselves to the experience that we were about to embark on for the next 10 hours or so. We engaged in some small talk and they were telling us how they speak Spanish, but were working really hard on learning English – which they did a phenomenal job. We reassured them that they were doing great and they excused themselves to head back to their room.

Another interaction that we had was with one of the fathers. He came out for a snack and after greeting him, he started to talk about his family and some of the issues he faces on a daily basis. He works full-time, his children are in school but at separate schools, which start times begin a little over an hour apart, and it is a one-car family. He really opened up about the struggles that he faces and how he wants to care for his family but when work and family conflict, it is very challenging to pick your battles. For a family that works so hard and encourages their children to try new things and get them involved (his son was in football), it may seem as if the world is against him and his family.

When you think of homelessness, you don’t think of a family who has working parents, a vehicle and children who are active in school and extra-curricular activities. I felt as if that night was a night of breaking stereotypes. Out of the four families there that night, two had vehicles, three of the four had at least one employed parent, and the profession of one couple was a nurse and doctor. What an enlightening time to reflect and see that anything can happen to anyone. It really opened my eyes even further to understanding how quickly life can change and those who are homeless did not choose to be.

The bit that I want to touch on is the living arrangements that each family and volunteer had. Each family had their own private room to share. For the volunteers, all three of us slept on a stage in the downstairs dining hall on twin sized air mattresses. Each family member and volunteer are offered the same items including a twin sized air mattress for the kids and volunteers, and a full sized air mattress for the parents. We had one sheet, blanket, pillow, towel, and washcloth. Although it was not much, it was exactly what we needed to get through the night. It is because of such dedicated and selfless community members that such a program exists and can help families move from such a dark time in their life to a time full of light and hope.

-Elizabeth Stiernagle

How to Save a Life

Everyone has that one cause that they hold near and dear to their hearts. For some it may be spending time at animal shelters or volunteering at soup kitchens but for me, its donating blood. Ever since I can remember I would go with my mom to the local blood drive and watch her donate blood. It seemed like a no-brainer that as soon as I was old enough, I would donate as well. The youngest you can start donating is at the age of 16 with your parent’s permission as long as you meet all the requirements. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet the weight requirements until I was 17, but I wanted to find a way to help out. I started volunteering through our student government and by my senior year I had worked my way up to coordinating the events.

 Did you know that donating 1 pint of blood can save up to 3 lives and that every 2 seconds someone needs a blood transfusion? According to the American Red Cross, there are 5 million patients in need of blood every year, but only 38% of the population is eligible to donate blood.

American Red Cross Volunteering

Grab a few friends and volunteer with the American Red Cross! My friends and I enjoy helping out at local blood drives.

 Less and less young people are donating blood these days. It is understandable to be nervous, especially if you are afraid of needles! The process is quite simple though, and you even get snacks and juice after. The American Red Cross hosts over 200,000 blood drives a year and its simple to find one near you. Winona State hosts blood drives about twice a year, as one just happened a few weeks ago. Signing up is easy and they accept walk-ins if the drive is not too busy. After registration the donor will go through a health history questionnaire and mini physical. After this, you are ready to donate blood! The actual donation process takes about 8-15 minutes or until a pint of blood has been collected, and the needle insertion is just a quick pinch. After donating, it is important to have a snack and something to drink. After about 15 minutes of relaxing, you are free to resume your daily activities and enjoy the fact that you just helped save lives!

Recently, I read an article about the need for bone marrow donors and felt compelled to become a part of Be The Match. Every three minutes, one person is diagnosed with a blood cancer and every 10 minutes someone dies from a blood cancer. Be The Match has become a global leader in bone marrow transplants with over 12.5 million selfless volunteers on the registry. The registry is for patients who need a bone marrow transplant but don’t have a matched donor in their family. The need for new members on the registry is constant because there are still patients who do not have a match.

To get involved with this organization is very simple. Just like blood drives, there are Be The Match drives. The organization recruits new registry members between the ages of 18 to 44. There are a few medical guidelines that have to be met but the process is a simple cheek swab. The cheek swab is analyzed for tissue type to hopefully be matched with a patient. Only about 1 and 540 members of the registry are matched with a patient in need and go on to donate. But every new donor that joins gives new hope a patient searching for a correct match.

I had the privilege of getting to participate in Winona State’s recent Be The Match Drive a few weeks ago. It lasted 3 days and simply took 15 minutes. It was as simple as walking into the East Hall in Kryzsko Commons and hopefully becoming the hope for a patient battling.

-Hannah Peterson

Winona State University Teaches Kids How Science Rocks

WSU science clubs held interactive/informational tables at the Elementary Science Fun Night.

Science has always been my favorite subject because it’s so fascinating how the world works. Being involved with Astronomy Club has its perks including trips to the science museum and volunteering for Elementary Science Fun Night. Elementary Science Fun Night is a volunteer opportunity with different science clubs on campus including Astronomy Club, Physics Club and Geology Club. The clubs come together and go to an elementary school in the area to teach kids about science in a fun, hands-on learning environment.

This year, the clubs traveled to Goodview Elementary. From 6:30-8:00pm kids visited various stations taught by the clubs. The Geology Club brought a volcano demonstration, rocks, minerals, fossils and toy dinosaurs to the event. Kids colored various species of dinosaurs, which kept them occupied for a while.

The Geology Club used toy dinosaurs to inform kids about the different types of dinosaurs and facts about them.

The Physics Club brought beads that glow different colors under UV light. Liquid Nitrogen was also a popular demonstration to showcase physics to kids. Dr. Ferstl, a physics professor on campus always brings liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen provides plenty of fun experiences for kids. The most common experiment is dipping a bouncy ball into liquid nitrogen then dropping it on the floor so it shatters. As a bonus, ice cream can be made with liquid nitrogen and it’s delicious.

Gravity is a scientific concept that was well represented at this event. The activity was called a gravity well, which consisted of fabric, a dense ball and a marble. The dense ball was at the center of the fabric. Kids rolled a marble around on the fabric, which represents how gravity impacts the planets and the solar system.

Astronomy Club also brings its fair share of experiments. Impact cratering is a very popular activity that Astronomy Club provides. Kids throw various spherical objects in sand to determine the size and shape of craters that would be created by each variation. Craters are collisions between an asteroid, comet or the meteorite with the moon. So basically this station simulates how the moon is impacted by various objects in space.

My hair, and the kids, loved the static electricity at the Elementary Science Fun Night!

The station I was responsible for was about static electricity. As I turned on the machine, I put both of my hands on the big silver globe. The conveyor belt in the machine would pick up speed generating electricity that would get transferred to me. Kids were amazed and a little freaked out because my hair reacted really well. If anybody came near me, they could feel the electricity that I radiated. My station was super interactive because kids would poke my arm and get shocked. Some kids laughed and thought it was the coolest concept ever.

Joining a science club was one of the best decisions I made at WSU. I’m not a physics major, but I still love participating and being an officer of the Astronomy Club. Participating in fun volunteer events like these make for a great weekend. Don’t be afraid to join a science club! You will learn a lot and meet great people in the process.

-Mariah Kaercher

Understanding Poverty: My Volunteer Experience

Walking into the Christ United Methodist Church in Rochester, MN I felt nervous. This church opens its doors to homeless individuals, and I was there to volunteer. I have never volunteered overnight before, let alone in an unfamiliar church in a big city. What calmed my nerves was being able to do this experience with my classmate, Liz. Without Liz I don’t think I would have been as willing to jump into such a new situation. Upon arriving to the church we were greeted by welcoming smiles from the other volunteers. They informed us of our duties and gave us a tour of the areas in the church that we would be using. The area where we slept was up on the stage of the church behind the drawn curtains. This was probably one of the only times I was on a stage and didn’t have stage fright! They had set out air mattresses for us and provided some bedding, but we also brought pillows and blankets of our own. I have to admit I was glad that we could room together!

Liz and I volunteered overnight and slept on the stage of the church behind the curtain.

Liz and I volunteered overnight and slept on the stage of the church behind the curtain.

By this time, it was already getting past ten o’clock so most of the families were already in their individual rooms. I understood why most of the people stayed secluded in their rooms because it is probably the only part of their day where they had privacy. We did get to meet two, young brothers who ventured their way into the kitchen. They didn’t know very much English, but they told us that they are working on learning more and more! We also met another father who explained to us his struggle of trying to balance his family’s busy schedule. His son goes to school around 7:45am, but his daughter’s school does not start until after 9am, yet he is scheduled to be at work right at 9am. Then he explained that his son has football practice until 6pm and needs to be picked up, but he is scheduled to work until 6pm and they are a single-car family. No one else would be able to pick him up. This was interesting to hear because a common stereotype of the homeless is that they are lazy. However, this father was trying to balance multiple schedules all while keeping up with his job, which, to me, sounds far from lazy. Also there was another family where the father was a doctor and the mother was a nurse, yet they are homeless as well. The coordinator said, “A majority of people are just two missing paychecks away from being homeless.” The family and this quote made me realize that truly anyone can end up in this situation no matter how financially stable you may think they would be.

Once it was time for us to go to sleep it was definitely different than what I was accustom to. As I was lying there though I thought how great it is that the church, as well as others, open their doors for these families. Even though a church is not a home, it is still a safe, warm shelter for these people who would not have a place to stay otherwise.

The Interfaith Hospitality network of volunteers truly is providing great services for families who find themselves homeless. This experience made me realize that more people need to be educated about the homeless population. I believe that if people were educated about some of the other reasons why individuals and families fall into poverty, instead of the stereotypical drug and alcohol abuse problems and laziness, society would be more willing to support and contribute to the war on poverty.

-Amy McAulay

Two Warriors Making a Difference

Maureen McCarthy (left) and Lauren Praska (right) started One Kind Person after a travel study to Jamaica introduced them to the Sunbeam Children’s Home. These Warriors are fundraising for the young boys they met and are making a difference!

Two years ago, Lauren Praska and Maureen McCarthy embarked on an adventure they would never forget.  As sophomores, they went on a travel study to Jamaica through the college of education.  On this trip their hearts were broken as they worked at the Sunbeam Children’s Home with young boys.  When Lauren and Maureen returned to the United States, they didn’t feel satisfied with just putting their trip on a shelf and not letting it change their hearts.

Therefore, Lauren and Maureen decided to start One Kind Person with a mission statement “to inspire others to find their passions as we chase ours.”  They learned through their experience that even when you think you don’t have a ton in common with someone, you can create strong bonds through small acts of kindness.  Lauren and Maureen might consider themselves to be two typical girls, but their loving hearts and inspiring passions are making a difference in this world, one person at a time.

Lauren and Maureen want to give WSU students the opportunity to join them in showing a little bit of kindness to the people of Jamaica.  On Wednesday, Oct. 21 from 1-4pm and Wednesday, Nov. 4 from 1-4pm there will be a One Kind Person table set up at the gazebo on campus where Lauren and Maureen will be selling inspirational artwork.  They will be selling cool plaques that would make great Christmas presents!  The proceeds from the sale will be going to the Sunbeam Children’s Home in Jamaica.  You also have the opportunity to support the boys by giving a monetary donation to buy uniforms, groceries or shoes for the boys.

You might feel like you’re a broke college student and can’t afford to give at this time, but Lauren and Maureen would love it if you just came out and talked with them!  They would love to share their experiences with you. Also, they will be having a “Meet the Boys” table where you can read bios and see pictures of the children they’re supporting!

If you cannot make it to the event but would still like to donate, purchase artwork or learn more about this event, please email Lauren and Maureen at

Lauren and Maureen are two seniors with beautiful hearts; please join me in supporting them and remember that even the smallest act of kindness can make a huge difference in the lives of others.  Hope to see you at the gazebo next week!

-Erin Kloepping

3 Tips to Become a Great Leader

Having the characteristics of an awesome leader is extremely beneficial and important! These qualities will allow you to succeed in school, work and relationships. Whether you are born with the characteristics or not, they can easily be developed and implemented. Here are simple ways you can become a rock star leader:

1. Communicate in a way that demonstrates empathy and respect
When you’re talking to someone else, use active listening strategies. For example, pay attention to what they’re saying, give verbal and non-verbal cues to demonstrate that your listening (nods, mhm-ms, yes, etc.), put away the technology, and maintain eye contact. However, some cultures will avoid eye contact. This is a demonstration of respect.

2. Work to incorporate cultural and diverse talent into your community

When you’re trying to be an inclusive leader, observe what/how people do the things they do. Equip people with skills and resources in order to take their leadership to a new level. Also, empower people to make their own choices, decisions and develop as a leader.

3. Be mindful of the Other


The “Other” (or “Constitutive Other”) is a concept of the identity of difference from one person to yourself. For this, demonstrate leadership skills that display an unconditional positive regard for a person. This means you will accept and respect others as they are without judgment or evaluation. Finally, utilize third-culture building strategies. This means that you’re either adopting (the process of taking on the cultural mores of another) and/or adapting (modifying one’s cultural mores to better fit those of another). This can be achieved through conversation and interaction.

-John Otis

Volunteering: Get Your Animal Fix!

Volunteer experience is always a positive addition to any resume. My volunteer experience started at the Winona Area Humane Society with cat care. Being raised with cats, I really adore them as pets and I’m destined to become a crazy cat lady. My first pet I ever took care of is my beautiful calico kitty named Jasmine. So when I found out my sophomore year of college that Winona has a Humane Society, I was dead set on becoming a volunteer. I have been volunteering for two years and it’s honestly one of the best decisions I made while attending school.

Crazy Cat Lady

Me and my first cat, Jasmine, back in the day!

The steps to becoming a volunteer are pretty simple and the application process is quick. Once the application has been filled, you go through an orientation with other volunteers to get the full tour of the humane society and the responsibilities of volunteering. There are mostly cats at the humane society, which is fine by me, but you can also sign up to be a dog walker if you really despise cats. Another way to volunteer is to work at the office, which includes filling out paperwork and working with the faculty staff members.

Volunteering has been rewarding and stress free. I volunteer with cats on Fridays usually because, after a long week, I just need to snuggle some kitties. My favorite part about volunteering is after cleaning, being able to sit down on a chair with a cat on my lap and just relax. Petting cats is really therapeutic and I can focus on the cats and not my homework or stress from school.

When meeting cats, it’s impossible not to pick favorites. Flirt is an adorable calico cat that loves to bite your phone when you’re not paying attention to her. Thanks to my Otterbox, my phone is not harmed when volunteering. Flirt is definitely a chubbier cat, which I find super adorable, and she’s currently waiting adoption right now.


Flirt, the calico cat at the Humane Society.

Volunteering is something that gets lost among college students, especially when classes and homework get in the way. Volunteering with something you’re passionate about brings happiness and relaxation to everyday life. Being involved in the humane society is really rewarding and I only wish I found out about it sooner.

-Mariah Kaercher

Help End World Hunger FOR FREE


World hunger has been a serious problem for years. 13.5% of the world is undernourished, according to the World Food Programme. That’s far too many people not getting the food they need daily. No one should have to worry about how they’re going to be able to get their next meal.

If people were asked, “If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?” some common answers may be “world peace” or “eliminate world hunger.” It might seem like a daunting task, but I feel we all can do our part in helping with world hunger. But, what can I do as a college student to help? Well I have an answer for you and it involves college students’ favorite word: FREE.

It’s a site called Free Rice. All you have to do is answer educational questions and there are different levels of difficulty for the questions to make it more challenging. You can answer questions in English, math, humanities, science and more. For each correct answer Free Rice donate 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme at no cost to you (you are also able to donate money on a monthly or yearly basis through this organization). So far over 98 billion grains of rice have been donated!


Not only are you making a difference by just sitting down at your computer, you might learn a thing or two! You can even make a game out of it and compete against your friends. Try making a bet with your friends and see who can donate the most grains of rice by a certain time. Sign up for an account on the site to look at your totals and join a group dedicated to answering as many questions as possible.

I challenge you to check out Free Rice this week and answer as many questions as you can! I hope you get hooked on this awesome website.

Have a great homecoming week, Warriors!

-Kassidy Jackson