The bad news last week for Providence Ministries was that a water leak Tuesday flooded one of the storage rooms in Margaret's Pantry, the charity's food pantry on Cabot Street.
The good news was that a large group of student-volunteers from Holyoke Community College was scheduled to arrive just two days later as part of HCC's first Day of Service event.
During the morning volunteer session Thursday, HCC students moved cabinets, emptied shelves, rolled up water-soaked rugs and swept the floors before plumbers arrived to tear of the floors.
"The students took the whole room apart and moved everything into the back," said Brenda Lamagdeleine, program manager for Providence Ministries and the volunteer coordinator. "In just an hour's time, they worked a miracle. They were awesome. It really made my job a lot easier. "
About 70 HCC students participated in the Day of Service event, which was organized by Laura Larson, HCC associate professor of human services and coordinator of HCC's "One Campus, One Theme: Food" initiative.
Students from Larson's Introduction to Human Services class, as well as students from Raul Gutierrez's Spanish and Laura Christoph's nutrition classes took part throughout the day at community agencies that provide food to low-income people.
"We started talking about how we could make this an event that really benefits the community outside of HCC and engages our students in the issues of hunger and food justice in the Holyoke community in a way that we haven't done before at HCC," Larson said.
In addition to cleaning out the water-soaked room at Margaret's Pantry, HCC students unloaded delivery trucks from the Western Massachusetts Food Bank. At nearby Kate's Kitchen, also part of Providence Ministries, students sorted cans and organized the soup kitchen's pantry closet. Students painted fences and worked in the greenhouses at the Nuestras Raices farm off Jones Ferry Road.
Brianna Fox, of Westfield, and her classmates from Prof. Christoph's Introduction to Nutrition class, worked in the pantry closet at Kate's Kitchen sorting cans and arranging them by expiration date.
"We're trying to organize so when they come in and get the food, they can find the ones with the closest dates in the front," Fox said.
"We're also getting rid of all the expired stuff," said Meghan Crockwell of Suffield, Conn.
During an interview with Channel 22News, Fox said she came away with a better understanding of the problems of the poor. "Just how privileged we are to have the option of eating whatever we want whenever we want it," she said.
Jasmine Lugo, kitchen manager for Kate's Kitchen, said the help was much appreciated. "We get so much intake and we're just really shoving it in there and it becomes a mess that way," Lugo said, "so when Brenda mentioned that the students were coming over I said, oh, perfect opportunity for someone to tackle that area, so this was just perfect."
Lamagdeleine said the students were welcome back any time.
"We're very fortunate that Holyoke Community College students come our way," she said. "I think it gives them a better sense of what's going on in our community, and it just makes it much easier to be able to do what we want to do with our clients."
PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO: (Left) HCC student Tyler Riberdy of Agawam paints a fence at the Nuestras Raices farm in Holyoke as part of HCC's Day of Service. (Right) HCC student Brianna Fox of Westfield helps sort cans at Kate's Kitchen in Holyoke while classmate Meghan Crockwell looks on. (Thumbnail) HCC student Shannon Worley of Blandford carries boxes of food out of a pantry closet at Kate's Kitchen in Holyoke.