Friend-2-Friend builds friendships through service
Friend-2-Friend volunteers help level the ground to lay sod at a Habitat for Humanity site. (Jen Wunderli/Friend-2-Friend)
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A group of Holladay teens are dedicated to helping their community through service and friendship. Friend-2-Friend is a service club based out of Olympus High School, Olympus Junior High School and Evergreen Junior High School. The roughly 125 teens conduct monthly service projects specifically focused on helping people in their community.
“It’s a service club that is building friends through service. That’s our slogan,” said 15-year-old sophomore Olivia Davis. “We’re a bunch of junior high to high school kids who are trying to make the world a better place while having fun and making people smile.”
According to Olivia, the group finds out what the community needs and then tries to find a way to help with that need. Since the group consists of teenagers, there are certain limitations to what they can and cannot do. However, Olivia said they try to find a way to use their abilities as best they can to help other people in the community.
One of the first service projects conducted by Friend-2-Friend was called the Brief Relief. The students collected new underwear to be donated to the Volunteers of America Homeless Youth Resource Center (VOA).
“It’s something that they don’t have enough of and it’s pretty overlooked because it’s something you need every day and it’s nice to have a clean pair,” said 17-year-old senior Jake Gochnour. “When we were looking for service projects, this was one we thought we could do and really applicable to our service group because it was a project for peers and for students like us in high school that could help them and benefit them and it was pretty easy for us to do. It was one of the better projects that we’ve done.”
Gochnour said the group gave out information to residents of Holladay about the Brief Relief and installed pick-up stations at local schools and city buildings. In the end, 3,200 pairs of underwear were collected. Members of Friend-2-Friend then donated the underwear in person to the VOA and had a party with some of the homeless youth.
“It was so much fun,” Olivia said. “We were celebrating everything we could do and bringing communities that sometimes aren’t always together and finding ways to bring everyone together.”
Another service project was volunteering at the Christkindlmarkt, a German Christmas festival, where group members worked with homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson to make 500 lunches for the homeless.
“And we just started packing lunches. There were sandwiches being made and lunch sacks being put together,” Olivia said. “After that, Pamela Atkinson told us about some of the things that she’s done and told us some stories, and those were really inspiring to us.”
Gochnour was in charge of a service project at Woodrow Wilson Elementary, where many students live below the poverty line. He organized a three-day service project in the style of an Olympiad.
“The first day, we had the students compete against each other in school subjects like math and science and reading and English. The next day we had the kids compete against each other in sports to promote fitness and exercise,” Gochnour said. “The last day was a culmination of events where we had awards and chalk throw and it was a lot of fun.”
A more recent service project Friend-2-Friend participated in was volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. The group helped level the ground around a house and lay sod.
“The family we did it for was this single mom. She had a son who was our age. We showed up and the workers there told us what to do,” said 18-year-old Samantha Sheets. “We laid sod down and it was hard work but we were able to get a lot done.”
The group is currently working on a new project aimed at celebrating the community. According to 15-year-old Mary Nydegger, the group has interviewed aides and teachers at the high school and both junior highs.
“We asked them what they love about their job, who are their heroes, what qualities to look for in a friend and why are they unique. We’re going to get those together on posters and put them on their doors,” Mary said. “We did it last year as well. The teachers who saw that and having the students see that people are real people, it makes us appreciate them more.”
While the group is mainly focused on service, building friendships is also a key element. Fifteen-year-old sophomore Brooklyn Randle said the reason she joined the group was not only the service but also the focus on friendship.
“Friend-2-Friend has not only included making friends with the people a part of it but it’s also finding friends in the community and making friends with people you usually wouldn’t talk to because of their situation,” Brooklyn said. “But seeing it from a different point of view has really helped me talk to people at school more. You open your eyes to how it’s not just about you but about everyone.”