By: Michelle N. Lynch
Kiana Yau carried the last bag of groceries into the Opportunity House kitchen and got to work.
Volunteer projects need a leader and it was clear Yau, 20, a Penn State Berks junior, was in charge. She handed out the hair nets and synthetic-rubber gloves to a group of eight students preparing and serving dinner Wednesday for clients of Reading's emergency shelter on North Second Street.
"I am president of the campus volunteer club, Berks Cares," she said, "so I am here a lot."
Each month, Penn State Berks students cook and serve a meal for 60 to 100 clients of Opportunity House, Yau of Brooklyn said.
"Next month is our 'Five Star Dinner,' " she said.
The service club will work with PSU Berks hospitality students to prepare a menu complete with appetizers and desserts, Yau said. Students will decorate the dining hall and serve as chefs and wait staff.
Yau divided her crew in half. Then she, senior Travonne Hardy, 22, and freshman Miraybi Abreu, 19, began slicing whole chicken breasts into strips, dipping them in egg and rolling them in seasoned bread crumbs to make baked chicken tenders.
Abreu of Reading didn't need direction. Though it was her first time volunteering, she is a seasoned cook and tenders are a specialty.
"I just learned about this today and signed up," said Hardy of Philadelphia.
He read about the dinner in an email blast, he said, sent from Autumn Marie Fritz in Campus Life.
Fritz, Penn State Berks' assistant director of community development, advises the volunteer club.
He might have signed up late, but Hardy knew his way around the Opportunity House kitchen. He previously volunteered there and elsewhere with Berks Cares, he said.
His interest in volunteerism began in his teen years, he said.
"I got into some trouble and was forced to do community service," Hardy said. "Once I saw the impact it had on the community, I wanted to continue volunteering."
Fritz said the students and clients share the meal and enjoy getting to know one another.
She helped the other half of Yau's team cook a simple one-pot macaroni-and-cheese recipe found on Pinterest, a social network site.
"It got rave reviews," she said, "so it better be good."
Before serving, the students chopped broccoli, crushed potato chips and crumbled bacon for use as toppings on the pasta.
An assortment of fruit pies and fresh fruit were served for dessert. Then students and clients cleaned up the mess.