From left: Liz Beadle, Beth Shields, Greg Thomas and Morgan Hill interns for Sen. Mark Pryor organize care packages at Food & Friends.
Some interns on the Hill make copies. Others answer phones.
One group of Capitol Hill interns is helping feed locals who are facing serious illnesses.
This summer, the interns in the office of Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) have spent one day a week volunteering at Food & Friends, a local food packaging and distribution center at 219 Riggs Road NE that delivers three meals a day, six days a week, to more than 1,450 people in the District.
“They really get their food out to a lot of people,” Vanderbilt University junior Beth Shields said. “It’s just amazing how many families they are able to serve.”
Heather Aleshire, a junior at Ouachita Baptist University, was also impressed with the tangible effect of Food & Friends. “They don’t only help the person with the illness, but they help their families,” she said.
Although few Congressional interns envision spending part of their summer wearing hairnets and packaging food, Pryor’s interns were glad to have the opportunity to lend a hand to a noted organization. “Everyone knows about Food & Friends in this area,” University of Central Arkansas senior Jack Phillips said.
“I love that this is part of our internship,” said Liz Beadle, a junior at the University of Arkansas. “It’s not about being a star or being a celebrity or being a politician. It’s about service to the people.”
And that’s more than just a résumé builder.
“It makes you feel good,” said Greg Thomas, a senior at University of Arkansas.
And for Pryor, that’s the point.
“It’s a good reminder about all of the things they have and how they can help other people,” said Pryor, who modeled the program’s service component partly after a similar internship program run by his father, former Sen. David Pryor. Mark Pryor said he hopes the volunteering will remind his interns “about life in general and how they can serve in different capacities.”
Based on the response of the interns, it’s been a success.
“I’ve realized that it’s really easy to take a few hours and go help someone out,” Phillips said.
As another interesting aspect of the program, the interns spent a day shadowing Pryor, experiencing a typical day in the life of a Senator.
“That was everyone’s favorite day,” Hendrix College junior Morgan Hill said.
After spending a day following the Senator, the interns were impressed with the number of duties Members are expected to fulfill.
“It definitely gave us something to say when people call and say, ‘He can’t be that busy. He can talk to me,’” Beadle said. “Actually, he can be that busy.”
Pryor made an effort to spend time with the interns outside of their day shadowing him.
“At least once in the summer, we all try to eat lunch together,” Pryor said, explaining that he wants to provide the interns with “a real, broad range of experiences while they’re in Washington.”
“You see how busy he really is, but he makes time to spend time with the interns and Arkansans who come up here,” said Sharnea Diggs, a graduate student at Arkansas State University who recommends that anyone interested in politics and the political process find a similar internship opportunity.
In addition to witnessing Pryor’s interactions with constituents, the interns dealt with some Arkansans. Dealing with constituents was something Dillon Buckner, a junior at Duke University, enjoyed about his time in Pryor’s office, even when those Arkansans were on the phone and angry.
“They usually feel a lot better at the end of the conversation, even if they yelled at you for five minutes,” Buckner said, explaining that he liked “doing the little things to make people’s lives better.”
Although they will remember their internships as a whole, their time in Washington left them with a few distinctly memorable moments. “Many of us were in the gallery when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords came back,” Diggs said. “That was an amazing, memorable experience.”
“Being here the time we are here,” Shields said, “I’ll definitely remember this the rest of my life.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.