The team helps distribute 17 tons of food to families in Pierson.
Once a month, members of the Matanzas High School girls bowling team make a 41-mile trip deep into the heart of Central Florida after a long day of school.
When the girls arrive at their destination — an old, off-the-beaten-path town by the name of Pierson — they get to work. Not on bowling, but on service.
A semi truck packed with 17 tons of food shows up at the church in Pierson, a town that Pirates head coach Tom De Seglie describes as “being in the middle of nowhere.” Forklifts unload the food. And then, for the next several hours, the girls and De Seglie help unload, organize, sort and distribute the food to the area's impoverished migrant population.
“Everyone that touches the food there is volunteers,” Matanzas senior bowler Erin Robinson said. “Everybody that is getting the food stays in their cars. That way we’re not inconveniencing them in any way.”
The girls bowling team is heavily involved in the Interact Club, a service club sponsored by individual Rotary clubs for people ages 12 to 18.
De Seglie, the Matanzas club’s sponsor, said most of the girls on the bowling team are members of Interact.
Robinson and fellow bowler Amanda Rushton have been involved with the club for the past three years. They’ve only been on the bowling team for the past two years.
Robinson said she’s been on 17 trips to Pierson.
“I love going out into the community and volunteering,” she said. “It’s one of my passions.”
Robinson’s experience with volunteering didn’t begin with the Interact Club, however. Throughout middle school and into high school, she was a member of the Community Problem Solvers, a group of students who try to draw solutions to problems they see in the community.
For Robinson, the problems were teen depression and suicide. She and fellow problem solvers developed an anonymous website, encouraged troubled students and worked hand-in-hand with school guidance counselors. The group’s model was so successful it earned the members a trip to Iowa for the club’s international competition.
“Not a lot of people have everything that we have,” Robinson said. “So even giving a few hours, a few minutes, a few seconds of our day can be life-changing for somebody else.”
Rushton, who is also in her senior year at Matanzas, echoed her teammate’s statement that being able to give a family something as seemingly simple as a meal brings an unparalleled feeling.
“Knowing that they have another meal just makes me happy,” she said. “It makes me happy that I’m able to benefit someone’s life by just taking a couple hours out of my day.”
For De Seglie, he thinks the community should take the same approach: a lot of people doing a little bit of good can make a big difference.
“Monumental changes can happen,” he said. “These students are learning about the value of being in the community and what that actually means toward making the world just a little bit better.”