Centennial students try to be 'a big help' on Austin's Day

Centennial students try to be 'a big help' on Austin's Day

URBANA — On Austin's Day, Centennial High School volunteers try to make a difference in order to honor a fallen former Centennial student.

And this Saturday, they once again succeeded in that goal.

Mike Jenkins, director of retail operations for Salt & Light Ministries who has worked there for eight years, said he was darn impressed by the three shifts of students who came to volunteer Saturday at the group's grocery and thrift store at 1819 Philo Road, U.

"We have moved a lot of things today," he said. "More than usual. They've been a big help."

Austin's Day remembers Austin Cloyd, who grew up in Champaign and attended Centennial for several years before moving with her family. A Virginia Tech freshman who hoped to work for the United Nations, she was one of 32 people killed in a campus attack by a gunman on April 16, 2007.

Salt & Light opened its second location 10 years after that tragedy, jamming a former County Market with the goods for a full grocery store, along with other items like clothes, bedding and furniture.

"Our primary goal is to walk people out of poverty by paying our volunteers $8.25 an hour credit toward buying items," Jenkins said.

Regular volunteers with limited financial resources worked Saturday alongside the students, who did three shifts of more than two hours each — unpaid — in cooperation with local Rotary clubs.

Women made up the majority of the Centennial group, many of whom worked sorting donated clothes.

High school senior Trisha Mallare, who found an old-fashioned infant girl's dress along with other items for adults, said the quality of the clothes there appeared to be pretty good.

"I like the variety. Last year, I worked at a nursing home," she said.

Rachel Thomas, 25, who has been volunteering at the Salt & Light store for about six months, was also sorting close by, her service dog Scout at her feet.

"Salt & Light has been helping me quite a bit to get back on my feet," she said.

All the volunteers worked hard to make sure items put on the shelves are useful and fit certain guidelines. For instance, a large sign on display asks them to make sure every bed set has both a flat sheet and a fitted sheet. "If not a complete set, bail," it said.

Centennial senior Olivia Herges said she found the work rewarding.

"I like seeing people later, seeing it has paid off," she said. "I volunteer at a lot of places, like Carle."

The only male students in sight were senior Joseph McNamara, who helped sort clothes, and Isaac Soloveychik, who helped accept donations.

"It feels good to help people," McNamara said.

"People are donating some really good stuff," Soloveychik said.

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