SE: Young Spends Holidays Giving Back
Though K-State women’s basketball only had a few days off to go home for Christmas, junior forward Erica Young didn’t want to waste it.
She could have rested. She could have put her feet up after a busy non-conference slate and spent her four days off on the couch before beginning an even busier Big 12 season when she returned.
But she had a plan to make a difference, and that is exactly what she did.
“I wanted to give back to the community,” explained Young. “So I asked a couple of my teammates if they’d donate five dollars each so I could go get hats, socks, gloves, things like that to give to the homeless. Then when I got it all, I packed it all up and brought it home. I spread the word at home; but I didn’t think anyone was going to show up.”
Young grew up in Tampa, Florida, a city with one of the nation’s highest homelessness rates. When she found out she would have the opportunity to make a quick trip home before Christmas, she began planning an event she called “Munch and Talk Success.”
The goal was to provide homeless in Tampa with a helpful gift and free meal on Christmas Eve and give them the opportunity to share their stories. She wanted to let them know she cared.
“When I was younger, we would always feed and help out the homeless; it was kind of a family tradition,” she explained. “But we kind of moved away from it because we all grew up, moved around and everyone has their own families now. But it was something that just came into my head this year, and I knew I wanted to give back when I went home.”
Young first shared her idea with her roommate, junior center Breanna Lewis. The two brainstormed together on how to make the event a success. They then collected items from friends, teammates and coaches in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
“She came to me with the idea that she wanted to give back for Christmas,” explained Lewis. “Instead of giving gifts to her friends and family, she wanted to give to people in need. She gave hygiene items, scarves, hats, anything they’d need. I helped her gather ideas, things she would do, and then she went back home and cooked for them; she cooked a Christmas meal for them. It was pretty cool.”
Young collected money and items while still in Kansas and began spreading the news of her event through family and friends in Tampa. Everyone began hopping on board with Young’s plan, even the Wildcat women’s basketball coaching staff.
“My teammates donated and my coaches went out and bought stuff for me to give; it was just amazing,” said Young. “With the NCAA rules, my coaches can’t just give me money, so for them to go out and actually get the items for me to bring, that really meant a lot.”
When it came time to travel home to Florida, Young’s bags were filled to the brim with hats, scarves, socks, toiletries and more.
“Erica is very much a giver in terms of her whole attitude,” said K-State head coach Jeff Mittie. “She’s involved in a lot of different things. This was an area that we talked about before she went home. Then, when she got back, she said it was one of the best parts of her Christmas break. She’s one of the more interesting young ladies I’ve coached because she has an interest in so many things. She’s really just a very positive person.”
Young decided to trade in her Christmas, all the presents, ribbons and bows, so that others could enjoy theirs, and her message was contagious. She was a single spark that started a fire of giving.
“When I got to the park, everybody just showed up,” Young said with a smile. “I didn’t even know half the people who were there helping out. It was amazing; it meant so much. Over 100 homeless showed up and we had plenty of food. People also came up from the street and donated clothes, shoes, socks, anything. It turned out to be a successful event. It was really great.”
Young said she learned many of the homeless’ stories through her event. She laughed and cried with those she served.
Her first “Munch and Talk Success” was a hit. The stories she learned of those in need touched Young so much that she is already thinking about her next event; her next opportunity to give back.
“This was my first time doing something like this on my own, and I was scared but I just started going through the motions and everything fell into place,” she explained. “It won’t be my last event; I want to do more. I’ve already started planning.”
K-State women’s basketball continues Big 12 play tonight with a matchup against West Virginia at 7 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum. The game will be aired on FOX College Sports Central and K-StateHD.TV, while it can also be heard on the K-State Sports Network.
For ticket information, game notes and more on tonight’s matchup, please click here.