WASHINGTON -- George Washington University senior Jake Stewart didn't know what he was getting himself into when he and a few friends went door to door on Halloween collecting canned food for the Capital Area Food Bank two years ago. His simple initiative has grown exponentially since then. This year's effort, called Trick or Treat for Service, drew about 200 volunteers from D.C.-area universities over the weekend.
"It's gotten huge," Stewart said.
He started the program in 2009 through the Alpha Phi Omega co-ed service fraternity, of which he's a member, and recruited just a handful of students to help out. Last year he had about 90 volunteers. This year, he enlisted the aid of several other chapters of the fraternity from nearby schools, including American University, Catholic University, Howard University and the University of Maryland at College Park.
With so many more participants, Stewart made plans to canvass a much wider area. Even with the weekend's unexpected winter weather, volunteers went door to door in neighborhoods near GW's downtown and Mount Vernon campuses, American University, and areas off Foxhall Road and MacArthur Boulevard. ZipCar donated the use of two vehicles to help out the cause.
Exact numbers aren't in yet, but Stewart is confident that he and his crew raked in at least 4,320 pounds of canned goods -- 50 percent more than last year.
Now in his final year of college, Stewart hopes that the new college partners will help continue the program after he graduates. "Hopefully in the future, this initiative can be a coordinated event between multiple universities," he said.
In addition to collecting food for people in need, Stewart believes the program helps change some negative perceptions. "We're also allowing the community to see college students do service," he said. "On a holiday that might be associated with college kids drinking or vandalizing things, it's nice to, at least for one community, change that perception."
WATCH a Capital Area Food Bank video on hunger: