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Opening up their hearts

Women's soccer players Jamie Holliday and Amanda Rittmeier help the homeless

July 7, 2011


Opening up their hearts

Binghamton University women’s soccer players Jamie Holliday and Amanda Rittmeier decided to spend their spring breaks doing charity work for those in need last March. As opposed to many college students who choose to go on vacations or simply relax during the break, these two student-athletes went above and beyond. They were each determined to be productive and to make an impact. As a result, both volunteered with NYCUP (New York City Urban Project) at the Bowery Mission homeless shelter, the oldest homeless shelter in the country, serving the community since 1879.

The idea to volunteer stemmed from Holliday, who also participated in NYCUP last spring break as well.

“Since I had such a great experience last year, I decided I wanted to be a part of NYCUP this year,” she says.

Jamie recommended the idea to Amanda, who was highly interested in volunteering over the break. Jamie’s positive experience served as further motivation for both young women to spend their break at the shelter.

Long hours spent collecting, distributing donations
During their time at the shelter, Holliday and Rittmeier volunteered and provided a variety of services such as preparing and serving meals to both residents and the community, picking up donations throughout the city, and community outreach through food distribution. They worked for five days waking up at 5:45 every morning, while also staying in the Bowery with 15 other females in one room. Although both admit it was tough, they each agree that the experience was well worth the effort.

“It’s important for me to see that I made a difference in someone’s life each day I was there,” Rittmeier says. “This trip has taught me to open up my heart and to lend a helping hand to those in need. To see instant gratification is the most rewarding result.”

From the Bowery Mission, both learned about many of the injustices that exist in the world today. They were each able to spend time with the residents, developing personal relationships with many. Their stories, pain, and struggles strongly influenced the volunteers. They experienced the opportunity of living alongside them for one week and minister to them both physically and spiritually.

This experience was important to both Jamie and Amanda, and it has affected them in a positive way.

Passionate about showing love to those in need

“NYCUP was important to me because very central to who I am is a faith that calls me to seek justice,” Holliday says. “Defending the oppressed, taking up the cause of the orphan, and pleading the case of the widow are values that I have personally dedicated myself to undertaking. My volunteer work was an expression of my desire to give a voice to the voiceless, and show love to those who society has turned their back on.”

Both went in to be of assistance and to help in any way needed, but the shelter had much more of an impact than either expected. From the experience, they learned valuable life lessons and developed a personal connection with many of the people in need.

One story that stood out was of a man who was homeless, wandering alongside the Grand Central Station. A talk with the man persuaded him to join the Bowery. He had suffered through having both legs amputated and had tiny maggots eating at his legs. He was sent to the nearest hospital with the hopes of making a recovery. Having heard the story of the man’s hardship, Jamie and Amanda spent time with him at the Bowery, listening and learning.

Amanda’s experience with the man has left an indelible impact on her.

“Talking to him and making him smile and feel as though he was welcomed and loved really impacted me,” she says. “It showed me that the small things in life go a long way. Just a smile or a nice ‘hello’ can brighten someone’s day.”

Holliday and Rittmeier are just two people, but they had a tremendous impact on a number of those suffering at the Bowery Mission homeless shelter. Both had a positive mindset with the goal of assisting those in need during their time off. The experience has in many ways been extremely beneficial for both student-athletes. The initiative taken by Jamie and Amanda has also cast a favorable image on the BU women’s soccer program and university as a whole.

NOTES
-In her freshman season, Holliday started 18 games, had a team-high 10 points, and was named to the America East All-Rookie Team
-Rittmeier was her team captain and MVP at Baldwin High on Long Island
-Both were members of the America East Honor Roll for GPA 3.0 or higher
-The Bowery Mission and Kids With A Promise is called to minister in New York City to men, women, and children caught in the cycles of poverty, hopelessness and dependencies of many kinds and to see their lives transformed to hope and joy
-This year, donors and volunteers helped the Bowery Mission provide more than 356,000 meals, 34,000 bags of groceries, 72,100 nights of shelter and 45,300 articles of clothing, as well as showers, haircuts, 500 professional doctor’s appointments and 100 eye examinations at the in-house clinic. For more information visit www.bowery.org

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