"Constructing houses, building communities"

Circle K to work with Habitat for Humanity in Delray Beach

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The Spectrum

It was a cold November night in New York City. At around 11 p.m., then high school student Valentyna Yasinska drove down the city streets in a car filled with 15 brown paper bags holding sandwiches, fruit and drinks.

Yasinska, a senior interdisciplinary social science major, was delivering these bags of food to the homeless.

"Those people were literally living on the street," Yasinska said. "A lot of the people we helped even had jobs and were trying to get back on their feet. But it's so hard in New York City - it's so expensive. Doing that really inspired me."

The experience, organized by a volunteer group called Midnight Run, stands out clearly in Yasinska's mind as one of the first community service projects in which she participated. Now, Yasinska's passion for volunteerism lives on through her work as the president of Circle K.

Circle K plans to spend Spring Break in Delray Beach, Fla., working with Habitat for Humanity. The group will be building houses with students from across the country through Collegiate Challenge, a weeklong alternative spring break program.

The club's participation in these programs gives the group a chance to bond and make a difference in communities across the country. Last year, Circle K went to New Orleans to help with the still existing damage from Hurricane Katrina.

This year, 15 club members - including Yasinska - will build houses, helping Habitat for Humanity achieve its vision of "a world where everyone has a decent place to live."

Circle K's work in Florida will contribute to a rise in stable home ownership for families in Delray Beach. This will increase the county's tax base, help stabilize the school system, revitalize communities and give families security and stability, according to Habitat's website.

Yasinska is thrilled to participate in the actual construction of a future family's home. She believes the work will make the club "that much fuller."

"Whenever we've worked with Habitat in Buffalo, we've done a lot of demolition," Yasinska said. "But in Florida, we'll be actually building stuff. I've never done that."

Sean Hui, a senior business major, shares in Yasinska's excitement. Recently elected as treasurer of Circle K, Hui is looking forward to the creative and physical challenge of home building.

"Construction work is the kind of thing I lean towards," Hui said. "I like doing hands-on stuff. A lot of other people like service activities that just involve cleaning up, but I really want to build something."

Hui joined Circle K at the end of the spring semester a year ago. His first event was Relay for Life and he's been an active member since. Hui believes the time he's spent in Circle K has brought out the "better part" of him. Even though he bears the official title of treasurer, Hui does much for the group outside the realm of math and money.

"Wherever I'm needed, that's where I'll go," Hui said.

Kelly Chan, the New York District Governor of Circle K, is delighted with the club's activities. A grad student at St. John's University with a B.A. in Communication Sciences Disorders, Chan oversees 33 Circle K clubs in New York, as well as over 25 board members. She makes sure clubs stay on track with planning service projects, meetings, major events, gathering resources and visiting different clubs throughout the year.

"I love UB," Chan said. "They've been doing an amazing job. As of right now, they're the largest club in our district - they have the most members, they're sending the most people to our district convention... and [Yasinska] has always been a really great communicator. I always know exactly what's going on."

This is Chan's fifth year with Circle K. She participated throughout her college years and was also a member of Key Club, the high school version of Circle K, for two years. She participated in her first event, a walk for juvenile diabetes, during her junior year of high school.

"It was huge," Chan said. "I saw how large the club was and how many people were so passionate. I wanted to be a part of something so great."

With over 12,600 members worldwide, Circle K makes a difference in communities on over 500 campuses across the globe, according to its website.

UB's Circle K club meets Mondays at 6:30 p.m. in Room 235 of the Student Union. Members are looking forward to their trip to Florida - Hui already has a playlist created for the 21-hour drive there and Alice Cady, a junior social sciences major, is excited to work in the sun with some great friends.

"I always get a little sad that I'm not going home for spring break, but thanks to Circle K, I have the chance to be active and make a difference," Cady said. "I always walk away with great stories."

email: features@ubspectrum.com