International exchange volunteers help at Pierre Area Referral Service

A sign that used to be at the Boys and Girls Club (110 Ree Street) is now in storage at the Pierre Area Referral Service building at 110 W. Missouri, courtesy of volunteers during Exchange Day. “To the best of my recollection, said PARS director Corwin Jones, the volunteers are, back row from left, Jooseph Kalbus, Erkki Kuber, Corwin Jones, Karl Saal, Marko Nahkor, and Endriko Lindeberg (Endriko set the ball in motion asking to volunteer). Front: Jagoda Czerederecka, Karl Vohu, and Katlin Karpovski. Czerederecka is from Poland, while the others exchange people are from Estonia.”

On August 4, eight members of Southwestern Advantage & Global Educational Concepts (GEC) celebrated Exchange Day with a service event in Pierre. Their volunteer efforts included taking down signage for the Pierre Area Referral Service (PARS).

“Hello. I am Endriko and I am college student from Estonia, Europe. We have students doing work and travel program in South Dakota this summer. There is going to be Exchange Visitor day in the beginning of the August. So we thought that we want to give back something to community,” said Lindeberg in his first communication with Corwin Jones, director of PARS. “We have students who would like to do some volunteering on 4th of August for couple of hours. Cleaning up some parks in Pierre; helping in food pantries; painting some swings, benches or something.”

Jones accepted, and the GEC organization participated in what it calls a successful event for Exchange Day in Pierre. The PARS office has moved from 2520 East Franklin Avenue, and needed the PARS signage removed and taken to its new location. A sign that used to be at the Boys and Girls Club (110 Ree Street) is now in storage at the Pierre Area Referral Service building at 110 W. Missouri. The volunteers also helped set up the stage, props, etc. of a local church’s story telling room.

Jones said the GEC group’s intention, according to their leader Lindeberg, was to work with a local church, but more work could be done. When asked by Jones if they would be willing to take down some signs, they said, “Great. We’ll do it.”

“They’re a great group of kids,” said Jones.

According to GEC, international students were in Pierre this summer on a cultural exchange program run by GEC through the United States Department of State. GEC s a public diplomacy program designed to help young people from around the world have a better understanding of United States culture, commerce, and values.

According to GEC, in the first week of August, is Exchange Day, a nationwide celebration of the power of international exchanges and an opportunity to raise awareness of educational and cultural exchange programs. Under the motto “Eat, Play, Give,” exchange visitors across the United States held similar events, helping participants and local citizens to give back to their local communities, enjoying American cuisines, and sharing cultural diversity and customs.

Pierre Area Referral Service administers the Pierre/Ft. Pierre Food Pantry, Holiday Food Program, Emergency Assistance Program, BackPack Food Program, Senior Food Box Program, and Information & Referral Services. PARS is also the local Salvation Army Service Unit for Hughes and Stanley County. The facility serves people in need through referral and direct services.

Exchange visitors participated in this volunteering event to assist the facility, said Lindeberg. Our group of students had a great time spending a day with the staff and community members from Pierre and learning more about what their lives are like here. We wanted to give back in some way because the people here have been very kind and welcoming to us. It is interesting to see how many similarities there are between people in South Dakota and Estonia. Helping your neighbors seems to be something our cultures have in common.

According to an additional news release, Global Educational Concepts (GEC) and Southwestern Advantage are part of Southwestern Family of Companies. Since 1868, Southwestern Advantage has offered a sales & leadership program that gives university students a way to afford their degrees, gain entrepreneurial skills, and build character. This summer, over 1,600 independent student reps from over 240 campuses around the world are marketing an educational learning system to families in the US & Canada. GEC is a designated sponsor of the U.S. Department of State’s J-1 Summer Work Travel and Internship programs. GEC fully supports and believes in the public diplomacy opportunities that exchange programs offer our participants, host families and host employers.

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