UCF students in a leadership development program created the volunteer project, Knights Helping Knights, to serve their fellow students through Thanksgiving and beyond.

Canned tomatoes, vegetables, soups, beverages and shampoo line the shelves of a room on the third floor of the Student Union. The pantry, which is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., has helped about 40 students since August.

Some of those students have been unable to find a part-time job because of the recession, and others are no longer receiving financial support from their parents.

“We didn’t want anyone’s education to get pushed aside due to financial concerns,” said Sarah Maton, the project’s student director. “We created Knights Helping Knights in order to take some of the burden off of their shoulders so students could focus on paying for their tuition and succeeding in school.”

While at the pantry, students are welcome to take whatever they need. The pantry is run on an honor system to ensure that students are comfortable coming and going.

The response has been heartfelt, said Maton, who even received a letter from one student saying how the pantry has “restored their faith in humanity.”

Organizers want to expand the pantry to offer gently used electronics, clothing and any other donated goods that would be of use to students.

Maton said the student-led volunteer group is planning several other special projects to help students during this holiday season, including passing out bags of food in front of the Student Union on Wednesday and again before the winter break.

Knights Helping Knights was formed earlier this year as part of a class project in UCF’s LEAD Scholars program. The organization has seen an increase in student traffic to the pantry and is working to ensure more students know about its services.

Knights Helping Knights organized a yard sale on Memory Mall last spring. Students set up booths and sold their unwanted items in order to earn some money. The group plans to organize another yard sale during the spring semester.

The group receives support from several other departments across campus, including UCF Health Services, the UCF Counseling Center, the Office of Multicultural Academic and Support Services, the Registrar’s Office, the Office of Student Financial Assistance, the First Year Experience Office and the Student Union.

“It’s really been a collaboration,” says Teresa Michaelson-Chmelir, an associate director in the Counseling Center and committee member for Knights Helping Knights. “Just creating awareness about the pantry and knowing that students are interested in helping each other shows that there’s a level of support and concern, which is being felt throughout the entire university community.”

For more information on Knights Helping Knights or to volunteer, click here or visit the organization’s Facebook page.

For access to the pantry after hours, contact the Event Services or Maintenance and Operations office, both located on the third floor of the Student Union.

The food pantry is currently accepting donations for the holiday season. See http://studentunion.ucf.edu/knights-pantry/ to learn more.