Service During COVID-19: Joshua Speth's Food Drive

Oftentimes, High School students assume that they must be in positions of influence or power in order to enact change. What this usually entails is being President of a club, the Student Council, National Honour Society, or similar organizations. Yet, that is not necessarily the case. One can enact change through a simple idea; sharing it and garnering support from those around them. There are many individuals nowadays who take on small projects that end up becoming quite widespread and popular.

One such individual is Joshua Speth! Joshua, a Junior at Taylorsville High School, Utah accompanied by his friend Ryan Buhler, decided to host a ‘social distancing’ food drive on the days of April 10th-11th, 2020. Utilizing social media as a mass communication tool, they publicized the event. Additionally, they asked Student Body Officers and the Key Club at their school to spread the word on their platforms as well. While skeptical if everything would work out, people arrived at their homes one by one all day on Friday and Saturday and dropped off the food that they could, which surprised Joshua and Ryan! To then donate the proceedings, the two took it to the Utah Food Bank on Monday, April 13th, 2020.

Finding the motivation:

Joshua’s ward (religious division) was in fact, planning to hold a food drive. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and relevant measures being taken, this drive was cancelled. However, Joshua was determined to ensure that the food bank received donations albeit the fact that many religious institutions were unable to do so at the time. During the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Russel M. Nelson, President of the Church, announced that a worldwide fast would take place on Good Friday, April 10, 2020. Subsequently, the duo talked about holding a food drive and thought that the fast would present the perfect opportunity for members of our community, who predominantly belonged to said religion, to donate the food that they might have eaten if they hadn't fasted.

Garnering the sponsorship and donations:

One of the greatest challenges clubs and events face starting off, is with regards to sponsorship. It is often quite difficult to persuade others to support your cause if they do not feel that there is substantial content to ‘invest in’. However, in Joshua’s case they “simply spread the word on all of our social media platforms.” Since he was also the Treasurer of the Key Club at his school, he was able to request that they spread the word on their social media platforms as well. Requests were also sent to the ward to post it on their Facebook page to ask for donations. Additionally, Joshua sought “that the Student Body Organizations (SBOs) at my school spread the word on their Instagram as well.” All of these requests were granted to his surprise, and the widespread community publicity helped raise awareness of the event. A few people reposted the information about the Food Drive as well. Given social distancing measures at the time, there was little else the duo could do to garner support besides using social media. When asked if there were any challenges along the way, Joshua responded: “There were not a lot of major challenges. We told people that they could come to either of our houses to donate food and Ryan got very few donations, but we made up for it with the amount of donations I received.”

Moving forward; further initiatives:

Having collected 502 lbs of food as well as about $70 that all went straight to the food bank, Joshua claimed the food drive to be a success! As President-elect of the Taylorsville High School Key Club as well as a Senior Class Senator, Joshua does have plans to hold another food drive during school hours. He mentioned that “Key Club could sponsor the drive with support from the Student Government and have bins placed throughout the school where students can drop off donations. We could even get teachers involved by saying the class that donates the most food will get extra credit.” There are many possibilities to continue this type of service initiative in the near future.

What advice would you give to other students of your age, who might be thinking “I’m not the President of any club, how can I do anything meaningful?”

Every person can make a difference in their community. We don’t have to change the world, we just have to be willing to help others. Ryan and I really didn’t have the leadership position that many might envision when they hear about our food drive. This was a complete grass-roots initiative, starting with a simple idea. If you have an idea, develop it and try it out! We simply told others about what we wanted to do and they spread the word until we received enough support to hold a successful drive. Anyone can do what we did. Just find something that you believe will benefit your community and build upon that and you can make a difference. Holding this food drive was a cool experience because it was just an idea that the two of us came up with and decided to implement. We weren’t really told to do it, we just saw a need and decided to fulfill it. I hope that others saw this initiative and hopefully realized that they could make a difference in their communities as well. All they have to do is take the initiative and go for it!

Joshua told us that the most important takeaway for readers should be: “We planned this ourselves. That goes to show that they can make a big difference in their community too if they’re dedicated to it. That is where real fulfillment in life will be achieved: through service. Finding ways through which we can make others’ lives easier and more joyful is how we’ll find the most joy for ourselves. It pays to be observant and aware of where the greatest need is in our communities and simply find ways to fulfill those needs.”

This article was written by Akhil Venkatesh as part of the Student Alliance’s ‘Student Stories’.

You may find more information about the various articles on our website and Instagram page @thestudentalliance. If you would like to contact Joshua, please do so via his Instagram account, @joshua_speth. As always, thanks for reading!

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