Bella DeArmitt organizes PLHCSA Porch-Drop Halloween Drive to support Operation Food Search

Bella DeArmitt, PLHCSA service chair

Bella DeArmitt, service chair of the Pierre Laclede Honors College Student Association, and more than 20 student volunteers collected donations from UMSL’s surrounding community during the Porch-Drop Halloween Drive to benefit Operation Food Search. (Photos courtesy of Bella DeArmitt)

Since the 1930s, neighborhoods have been infiltrated by ghosts and zombies roaming from house to house on Halloween night, knocking on doors and yelling, “trick or treat.”

This year, the streets were a bit quieter as people practiced social distancing. But in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pierre Laclede Honors College Student Association and its service chair Bella DeArmitt saw an opportunity to help others.

The group organized the Porch-Drop Halloween Drive, which allowed honors students at the University of Missouri–St. Louis to collect donations from community members. The non-perishable items were given to Operation Food Search to be distributed to people in the St. Louis area.

Bella DeArmitt, a sophomore majoring in public policy administration with an emphasis in nonprofit administration, organizes volunteer opportunities for students through her role as PLHCSA’s service chair.

This year, PLHCSA’s efforts benefited Operation Food Search, a nonprofit dedicated to ending hunger in the St. Louis region. The organization distributes more than $3 million in food and household products to support 200,000 people each month.

“The Porch-Drop Drive is PLHCSA’s solution to working within the limitations set by COVID-19 and the dire need to help our community during these trying times,” DeArmitt said. “The population of people in need has possibly never been higher. Our help and efforts are doubly important right now because of how hard COVID-19 has touched so many communities.”

Bella DeArmitt, PLHCSA service chair

Bella DeArmitt showcases some of the donations collected to support Operation Food Search.

Volunteers practiced social distancing during the food drive. Each person chose an area and distributed flyers throughout their designated section between Oct. 25- 31. On Nov. 1, more than 20 student volunteers collected donations left on porches.

PLHCSA holds a donation drive each fall semester, but fewer students on campus and social distancing required ingenuity to continue the tradition.

“The idea for a Porch-Drop Drive was born out of necessity,” DeArmitt said. “I was apprehensive the drive would not be successful. I’ve organized these sorts of drives in the past on a smaller scale, and after our contact at Operation Food Search recommended it, it was a done deal in my mind.”

She credited the drive’s ultimate success on spreading the word to the UMSL community.

“My focus has mainly been on recruitment,” she said. “I’ve been coordinating efforts with our social media director to draw in volunteers through Instagram, as well as working with our publicity chair to create flyers and other media to catch students’ attention. I distributed as many flyers as my printer and my feet were able to.”

Her passion for supporting others dates back to fifth grade, when she realized that not every child had the same opportunities and privileges she did. With the help of her mother, she organized a series of bake sales to raise money for a variety of charitable groups.

She was also inspired to help others by participating in the St. Louis World Food Day as a young child. Along with her family, DeArmitt helped package meals for those in need. Last year, things came full circle when she served as head intern and helped organize the event.

“My dream is to plan events like World Food Day,” she said. “They foster a love for service within younger generations, teaching them early on that they can make a positive impact in their community despite their age.”

When she came to UMSL, she initially enrolled as a business major with a goal of working for a nonprofit organization. Over the course of her freshman year, however, she found her passion for the subject lacking. So she changed her major to public policy administration to study alongside students who shared her love of altruism.

DeArmitt was drawn to UMSL by its location, affordability and diversity. She was also attracted to its state-of-the-art Recreation and Wellness Center, where she spends quite a bit of time working out and lifting weights.

Another of her favorite places on campus is the Honors College, where she’s formed friendships with other students in the tight-knit community. She relishes the small, discussion-based classes and service opportunities.

“I’m able to fully immerse myself within our cute, little community here on campus,” she said. “My favorite part of being in PLHCSA is the engagement from students. I didn’t have very high expectations for how involved students would be while participating in online learning, but I’ve been impressed by how many are taking time from their schedules to join us for Zoom events like ‘Are You Smarter Than the Professors’ and ‘PLHCSA’s Got Talent … and Pets.’”


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