Volunteer group provides services for local organizations, families
What started as an attempt to rekindle long-lost friendships has developed into a philanthropic group on campus that prides itself on completing 10 volunteer projects per week.
Spartans Rebuilding Michigan, SRM, began three years ago, and since its start it has grown more than 25 times its original size. The original founders wanted to find a way for students to easily connect with the community and give back, finance senior Sameer Jauhar said. Jauhar helped his friends from high school found the group and now serves as its president.
“Essentially, they wanted to find a way for students to easily connect with the community and give back,” he said. “No one knew what this was, or what it was going to become.”
SRM is notably larger than other on-campus volunteer groups. Each member volunteers five hours per week.
“When you’re just joining a club initially, hearing you have to do 50 hours a semester might kind of scare some people who aren’t really sure if they want to do it,” he said.
For Jauhar, volunteering is doing what he can to “balance out the scale” of social inequality. When he is helping others, be it making lesson plans for elementary school students or cooking a meal for the Ronald McDonald House, Jauhar said he has found meaning in the moment.
Jauhar said while volunteering at Haven House of East Lansing, an emergency transitional housing service for families, he experienced a moment of realization.
“This little boy comes up to me,” he said. “He was probably 8 years old, and he asks me if I need help making the meal. That was fun for five or so minutes and we keep talking, and just out of nowhere he says, ‘I wish I had a home.’”
Jauhar said the moment stuck with him. He has been fortunate to never have to worry about shelter or where his next meal was coming from, he said, and giving back is the least that he can do.
When the volunteer group comes in to Haven House, they are there to help the kids have fun and not focus on anything that is going on with their families, Haven House volunteer and special projects coordinator Chequoya Spearman said.
“When (the residents) meet with staff here, they have to talk about their situation,” Spearman said. “But when the volunteers are here, they can actually talk to them and get to know them on a personal level.”
She said having college-aged students come in to volunteer gives the young residents someone to look up to.
“They see that they’re in college and it makes them want to grow up and be just like them, just like a role model," Spearman said.
The on-campus group also volunteers time to the Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan on a regular basis. SRM external vice president Melissa Trujillo said helping cook dinner is one easy way to help a family.
"They are nice and respectful people that are going through a really hard time," Trujillo, an advertising junior, said. "They’re happy to see people going out of their way to help them, especially college students."
The club will continue their volunteer efforts through the end of the semester where they end with the largest fundraiser they host, Klimb for Kids, which will take place at the Breslin Center on Feb. 18 with the help of ASMSU. The event fundraises for the Children’s Miracle Network and all ticket sales go directly back into the local community.