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Teen feeds desire to help community

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Tuesday's Teen: Scroll down for bonus video

By Robert Villanueva

With plastic-gloved hands, 17-year-old Benjamin Pierce dipped a yellow measuring cup into a box of 50 pounds of rice, scooping up enough to fill the 2-pound container.

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Pierce poured the contents into a large plastic bag, onto which he had affixed a label to denote it is not for resale, and packed the bag into a box. It was part of his volunteer service at Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland for the summer.

He’d rather be doing this, he said, than his other option.

“Either I come here, or I stay home and do nothing,” Pierce told another volunteer working with him.

Though this stint of volunteer work is part of a program to help him get a job interview in the future, the John Hardin High School senior is no stranger to volunteer work.

“A few years ago I volunteered with a youth group, and we worked in a soup kitchen in Louisville,” he said.

Additionally, the Elizabethtown teen has volunteered at his church and for the JHHS Day of Service each September since he was a freshman. The first two years, his volunteer service was at Feeding America.

“That’s how I found out about this place,” he said.

Standing in the warm warehouse across from each other, scooping rice out of the box between them, Pierce and another volunteer chit-chatted as a standing fan across the room blew air on them. Behind the fan, on the walls near the door that leads to the front offices, volunteer signatures fill the white space.

Having started his volunteer work about two weeks into June, Pierce plans to continue until it’s time to go back to school in August. He works at the warehouse two or three days a week for two hours at a time, filling bags, packing boxes or doing any other work that needs to be done.

“It’s usually different things every day,” Pierce said.

After graduating from high school, Pierce plans to attend college and study to be an engineer.

“I’m really good at math,” he said.

As the rice supply for scooping ran low, Pierce restocked the supply using a couple of 25-pound bags. From a radio somewhere in the warehouse Heart sang “Magic Man” as Pierce worked, filling 2-pound bags and then putting 12 of those bags into each box.

Pierce stuck labels on the boxes and sealed them with packing tape.

“He’s a very dedicated worker,” Jordain Edmonds, warehouse assistant, said, noting Pierce had a lot of energy.

Edmonds said Pierce also works well with others.

Volunteer Mercedes Wartluft attested to that observation.

It was her second day working alongside Pierce. She helped him bag and box the rice and said Pierce caught on quick.

“He did great,” Wartluft said. “And he’s funny.”

Pierce said he noticed volunteers were typically older, mainly because teens seem to spend a lot of time playing computer or video games.

“Which is what I’d be doing if I weren’t here,” he said.

Only a couple of hours a week is all it takes to volunteer, Pierce said. And volunteering is rewarding in a couple of ways.

“It gives you something to do for the day,” he said. “You’re not just staying home; you’re actually helping the community.”

“And making friends,” Wartluft interjected.

“And that, too,” Pierce said.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.

A FEW FACTS ABOUT BENJAMIN PIERCE

Favorite music: Changes from time to time, but right now he likes electronic and dub step
Favorite movies: The Harry Potter series and “Monsters University”
Favorite books: The Harry Potter series
Favorite TV show: “Mythbusters”
Hobbies: Computers and bicycling

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