Students learn needs of community


By Kelsey Stewart, News Editor

Last week, Tanner Johnson called a cardboard box “home.” Put together with duct tape and zip ties and painted in a camouflage motif, the box was a few feet tall and a few feet wide.
Johnson joined about 20 fellow Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity members in Just Can It!, a community service project.
As part of the project, fraternity members raised awareness of homelessness in the community. Fifteen cardboard box homes similar to Johnson’s dotted a parking lot of the Crossroads Mall. Five to six people worked on building each house, Johnson said, adding that multiple people slept in each one.
“It’s cold and uncomfortable,” Johnson said of sleeping in the boxes. “You’re sleeping on wood or cardboard and you have blankets under you, but you also need blankets on top of you.”
A second element to Just Can It!, was the collection of canned goods for The Salvation Army’s food pantry. This year’s goal was 40,000 cans.
“We support the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity’s efforts as volunteers to raise food to fill our pantry shelves,” said Kay Weinstein, Omaha area volunteer director at The Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army food pantries have seen an increase in requests for assistance.
Monetary donations and non-perishable food items were collected at the Crossroads Mall all last week. Additional contributions can still be dropped off at any Omaha fire station, Weinstein said.
“I think it’s so wonderful to see college students engaged to make the community a better place,” Weinstein said. “I think it’s making them feel more grateful and more aware of need in the community.”
The lack of heating proved a challenge at the beginning of the week, but it wasn’t the only thing, Johnson said. Other challenges were getting food and water and fighting off boredom. But it gave them an awareness of community needs and a chance to bond with each other, he said.
“It’s giving back to the community,” Johnson said. “Don’t take what we have for granted and help those who don’t have our luxuries.”