Honor society adopts families for holidays

Mark Ostendorf (left), senior general studies major and president of Phi Eta Sigma, and Jessica Beck, sophomore general studies major and co-secretary, divide the food to take to needy families Nov. 20.

Mark Ostendorf (left), senior general studies major and president of Phi Eta Sigma, and Jessica Beck, sophomore general studies major and co-secretary, divide the food to take to needy families Nov. 20.

Rebecca Watts

Three members of the Phi Eta Sigma honor society demonstrated some holiday generosity by adopting four Joplin-area families through the Salvation Army.

“We always try to do something for the community for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Mark Ostendorf, senior general studies major and president of PES. “We just asked the Salvation Army for some families, and [the families] were asked if we could help.”

Ostendorf, Tara Johnston, sophomore international business major, and her sister, Jessica Beck, sophomore general studies major and co secretary of PES, packed $200 worth of Thanksgiving necessities into two vehicles and delivered them to the families.

“It takes a lot for families to suck up their pride and ask for help,” Beck said.

“They don’t always get help, but when they do it’s a wonderful thing.”

Three of the four families were expecting the students, but one single mother was surprised of her visitors bearing gifts. The woman had no phone and the Salvation Army could only supply the students with an address.

“The size of her kitchen is about the size of my Durango,” Johnston said. “You could stand at the sink and touch the refrigerator. In my opinion, it’s those kinds of places or the street. Those are the options.

“As a single mom, I would not live there with my kid unless I absolutely had to.”

One family with several children in the house demonstrated their gratitude with a thank-you card with the family’s signatures.

“The little girls shook our hands or gave us high fives,” Johnston said.

To Beck and Johnston, this type of community service hits close to home.

“I’ve been in these families’ position before,” Beck said. “I know how much it means to a family for someone to actually pay attention and help.”

Johnston said her past experiences and her current feelings for the needy families go hand-in-hand.

“It makes me sad because I know what it’s like to be there, but it makes me happy that I made the decision to do something about it,” she said.

Annual holiday charity work is a way PES interacts with the community, and the organization’s members were willing to play a part.

“Everybody was glad we were going to do it and if they could help they would,” Ostendorf said.

PES inducted more than 70 members last spring, and the organization has changed over the years.

“I believe the organization started back in 1922 or 1923 and it was originally a men’s fraternity and then it became co-ed honor society for freshmen,” Ostendorf said. “It encourages freshmen who have exceeded expectations academically to join as their first glimpse of what an honor society does at Missouri Southern.”

Beck has been an active member of PES since 2005, and said events like the Thanksgiving adoptions of families make this organization stand out on campus.

“A lot of people will go out and pick up trash, but when it comes to the more important things like feeding a family for the holidays it gets unrecognized sometimes,” she said. “I think if more groups on campus started doing this in the future then there would be less needy families going hungry on the holidays.”

Beck also said this community service is not just needed once a year. She encouraged anyone to contribute to the Salvation Army, Lafayette House, Souls’ Harbor or the Carthage Crisis Center.

“It doesn’t even have to be on a holiday, they can donate food any day of the week and make just as much difference as they would on a holiday,” she said.

Members are looking forward to their next Christmas project involving a local elementary school. They plan on adopting two third-grade classrooms and raise money with the help of some Joplin businesses.

“We’re trying to get money raised to buy them Christmas presents and dinner, just to get the kids and their families what they deserve,” Johnston said. “We worry so much about other countries, it’s great to help out, but we need to take care of our own problems before we can help everybody else.”