Montpelier: James Madison University Magazine

Operation Peanut Butter
Foursome supplies food for thought
Montpelier Spring 2000

There's no organization backing them up. They have no sponsors. Every now and then four students simply fill their car with loaves of bread and jars of peanut butter and jelly and head for Washington, D.C., where they help to feed the homeless.

"It's not about just giving out sandwiches," says junior Jason Young, who created the "Peanut Butter and Jelly Patrol" on campus after handing out PBJs at bus stops during a summer trip to Minnesota. "A lot of these people need someone to listen to them, not just to throw change at them and walk away."

Young, along with juniors Joe Arner and Andrew Zorn, and freshman Luke Amann, try to get acquainted with each one of their sandwich recipients. Some of the recipients are surprised by this caring gesture. "Some people ask us to place the sandwich on the far end of the bench and don't say another word," says Amann, "and some open their hearts to us for an hour."

Through these conversations the students have formed some lasting relationships. "Norman's been on the streets since 1967," says Arner. "Bob has a hard time getting treated for his illness caused by military service in Vietnam. Mary Theresa got involved with the wrong guy. People are the same. We all make mistakes, we all have our stories and we all can help each other out."

More importantly, the trips have allowed the four to learn one of life's greatest lessons. "A lot of people just assume that these needy people are so much different than themselves," says Young, "that they're almost a different breed. But the more involved you become with people, the more the outside barriers of the way they dress, the way they look and even the way they talk fade away. A lot of times, the craziest, scariest looking guy that everyone avoids is actually the friendliest most wholesome one out there."

While many people are impressed by the foursome and their dedication to helping the homeless, personal gain is not the group's intention. "I used to try to help others to fulfill my own personal need, to feel like I did something good," says Arner. "Now, though, I believe that giving has to be focused on the receiver. I don't do this because it makes me feel good. In fact, I try to forget about myself when I do it. ... I know that when I come home from patrolling, I've given my day to forgetting about myself, caring about others, and because of this, obeying the Lord. That's rewarding."

Zorn echoes this sentiment, "Jesus said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive,' and I have experienced that to be true."

by Kara Carpenter ('00)

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