Michael Atkins: Giving something of himself

Michael Atkins, a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences sophomore, discusses the Warming Tree Project, which he’s brought to N.C. State. You can donate warm clothing items at the Warming Tree Project Christmas tree in Patterson Hall. Atkins received the Nestle Very Best in Youth grant to support the project.

Community service has always played a huge role in my life. And it’s just something I’m very passionate about. I feel like if you have the opportunity and you have the time, you should really give something of yourself to other people.

My name is Michael Atkins. I am a sophomore at NC State University, and I’m a member of the Thomas Jefferson Scholars program. I’m currently an applied sociology major and a political science with a concentration in law and theory major.

I have aspirations to actually be elected president of the United States in the year 2028.

This past year I was appointed by Gov. Beverly Perdue to the Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service for North Carolina. I am the youngest appointee at 19 years old. And I’m hoping that through my position I can inspire people my age – younger and older – to get involved.

The Thomas Jefferson Scholars program does community service throughout the school year, but we’ve never had an annual community service project that’s been something that’s been a regular thing that has happened every year, and so I talked with some of the academic advisers for the Thomas Jefferson Scholars program, and they thought it would be a great idea to bring the Warming Tree Project to NC State as an annual project.

It was a project that my sister and I started probably six years ago. We put up Christmas trees in local businesses, schools and other organizations and then we put signs up around the Christmas trees asking people to donate gloves, hats, scarves, mittens, basically warm clothing items that are either new or gently used. And then we take them to places such as the soup kitchen, the battered women’s shelter and social services. The money from the grant will go toward buying the actual Christmas trees and getting signs and advertising so that people can actually find out about it.

Doing the Warming Tree Project I have had a lot of really great experiences with the people that I’ve donated the items to because my sister and I actually give the items to the people themselves that need them. And there was actually one time when we were at the soup kitchen, and the director of the soup kitchen had pointed out a man who was basically desperately in need. I went up to him, and I handed him a pair of gloves, and a pair of socks and actually a coat. And before I could walk off, he handed me the gloves back. And he said, ‘I already have a pair of these. Give some to someone who really needs them.’

And for someone who has so little and for someone who has been pointed out to you as being someone who truly is in need to give something back to you is just incredible. And I feel like if people who have so little can give back, then we who live comfortably and are able to get an education — we have the time, and we have the resources, and we should really make use of those and give back to our community.

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