By CATHERINE NEWHOUSE
For Bobby Harrison, coming to pump gas at Break Time isn’t a chore, but a way to give back to the organization that helped him get a job.
The Hickman High School junior is in his third week working at Kentucky Fried Chicken after the Youth Empowerment Zone helped him with his resume and interview preparation during his job search. Harrison, who plans to go to college and become an auto mechanic, has also become a youth consultant at the Youth Empowerment Zone, recruiting other people his age to come to the organization for job skill assistance.
“If they ask me to do something, I help them, because they helped me, so why not help them back?” Harrison said.
Youth Empowerment Zone volunteers, including notable Columbia residents such as the mayor, pumped gas and cleaned windshields at the Break Time gas station at 110 E. Nifong Blvd. near Providence Road for the “Driving Youth to Success on the Nonviolent Street” fundraiser on the morning of Friday, April 29. For the organization’s annual fundraiser, MFA Oil will donate 10 cents per gallon sold at two gas stations all day on Friday, April 29. The other Break Time is at 2101 W. Ash St.
Some people tipped their gas pumpers as donations to the Youth Empowerment Zone. Around 9:30 a.m., volunteer and Columbia business owner Sean Spence counted $30.50 in tips he had raised for the organization in the last half hour.
“As a business owner, I realize that our kids have to have jobs,” Spence said. “That is what Youth Empowerment Zone does and that is why I want to help them.”
Columbia native and St. Louis resident Megan Usovsky pulled up to Break Time unaware of the fundraiser, and then found out that Mayor Bob McDavid would be pumping her gas to raise money for a cause.
“It’s exciting that the mayor nonetheless pumps my gas,” Usovsky said.
Youth Empowerment Zone youth specialist Purvis Hunt said the annual fundraiser helps the organization provide youth with interview clothes, transportation and food in the organization’s fridge for youth to snack on after school.
“Without it, we would be struggling,” Hunt said. “It just helps us get that much closer to our goal to help the youth in the community.”