Patriot Service Club offers students chance to give back

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

In 2017, East Newton High School Spanish and Drama teacher Sam Bennion created the Patriot Service Club.

Bennion had seen students filling out applications for colleges or scholarships that didn’t have any community service hours and saw a way to fill that void.

“I also firmly believe when you get out and do things like service, you feel better about yourself,” said Bennion, the clubs sponsor. “Kids deal with a lot of anxiety, stress and depression. I thought a service-oriented club would be great and help in so many different ways.”

Formed in the 2017-18 school year, the club has helped paint Christmas ornaments for the city, volunteered at the local senior center and done environmental work around the school as well as local and state parks and even the George Washington Carver monument.

“It does something good for the environment and it’s something good for us,” said senior club president Maiker Vang.

“Going to George Washington Carver or Roaring River State Park, those are parks these kids have gone to in their elementary school days,” said Bennion. “This is our way to give back to those places. We go back and A) have a lot of fun together and B) do something significant for the parks.”

In 2019, Mike Snow, a Woodworking teacher at East Newton and Neosho resident, shared information with the club about an area at the south end of Morse Park along a creek at the west edge. Heavy flooding had choked the creek with debris, and with the service club looking for a project at that time, they decided to go clean some of it up.

Since then, the club has tried to visit the creek each spring to keep the area clean.

Last weekend, nine members of the service club spent two hours cleaning that same area of trash on a Saturday morning. They removed pallets, PVC pipes, tires and other various articles of garbage that congregated in the river and along the banks.

“It was same stretch of river (as the first time we went),” said Bennion. The service club went in 2018, 2019 and then this year after 2020 wasn’t able to happen due to COVID. “It’s every year, new garbage. That’s what blows me away. We pulled out tons of garbage two and three years ago. Yet you see the pile we pulled out this year. It just piles up.”

“This last time was my first time going to the Neosho park for clean up,” said junior Toshinori Bennion. “I knew the previous times they went they did something similar cleaning the river and taking stuff out of it.  First, we went alongside the bank and got any trash that wasn’t in the water. Then we had people go into the water and give to people on the banks to put stuff in trash bags.”

The service club gives students a chance to give back to their community but Toshinori, Vang and sophomore Trxi Moua said it’s also a fun opportunity to spend time with friends and do some good.

“They could be sleeping in, on their games, doing whatever but here they are doing service for their community,” said Bennion on students giving their time back, especially on a weekend. “I hope it’s something that will stick as they go on to college and life. That they’ll do this type of thing. I know for a fact we have former club members that graduated in 2018 who are students at MSU who volunteer at soup kitchens, one volunteers at a diaper bank. I feel like we’re doing a good thing and I’m in awe of these kids for sacrificing their weekends.”