When the bell rings at the end of a Friday at Allen High School in Texas, students head to the cafeteria. Tables are lined up with plastic sheets, bottles of peanut butter, jelly and utensils ready for the arrival of the students. Here students gather to participate in the school club PB and Joy.
PB and Joy is a student-run club that holds weekly meetings during which students at Allen High School make Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches for the local homeless population. These sandwiches are donated to the Stewpot Kitchen in Dallas.
Starting out as an International Baccalaureate CAS project created by students in 2016, Pb and Joy has now grown to be one of the biggest and most beloved clubs at Allen High School. Led by students Ava Stanzo, Gautam Upreti, Ivy Tran, Aida Figueiras and advised by Theory of Knowledge Teacher Karen Hunnicut, PB and Joy strives to build accessible community service while working together towards a common goal: giving back to the homeless community of Dallas.
“A lot more people than we think are homeless or have experienced some kind of food insecurity in downtown Dallas, and in Texas in general,” said senior and PB and Joy leader Gautam Upreti. “These are people who are often neglected in society, so I decided to join this initiative to give back.”
A major component of PB and Joy is making sure that the club is accessible to all students. Some other clubs at AHS may require the attendance of each member, a certain level of commitment, and membership fees in some cases.
However, PB and Joy was built with the intent of creating “service opportunities that are accessible for all students, with a steady and constant service opportunity,” PB and Joy leader Ava Stanzo said. Meetings are held each Friday, and members are not required to come. They may come to meetings at their convenience as fitting with their schedule. This policy fosters an environment where the meetings are accessible and fun.
Furthermore, to ensure the hygiene of the whole operation and the quality of sandwiches, PB and Joy has taken some extra precautions. At each of their meetings, members are required to wear hairnets and gloves while making sandwiches, which the club provides.
In the beginning, PB and Joy started making PB and J sandwiches on a small scale in a section of the library at Allen High School with only a few members. As time has progressed and word has spread, PB and J has grown in members to such a magnitude that they have had to change locations to accommodate all their new members
“We started out in the upper library which was just a small room, but now we have over 100 people coming in, and so we’ve had to move to the cafeteria and expand,” Upreti said.
PB and Joy leader Ivy Tran said the club’s meetings have maxed out at around 500 people. “
With the increasing number of members and increased traction, the sense of community has grown in fervor at PB and Joy. Members come in before and after the meeting to help set up and clean up, and the majority of the ingredients used to make the sandwiches are provided by donations made by students.
“We make PB and J sandwiches for the homeless community in Dallas, but honestly, it’s also a place to make great memories,” Tran said. “We have a lot of fun here, we have a lot of great camaraderie. And it’s just such a friendly community.”
As the club has grown, so have their donations. On a normal meeting day, their sandwich production varies from about 500 to 2,000. However, on Give Day — a day dedicated for students at Allen High School to participate in service projects — PB and Joy produced around 9,000 sandwiches.
Additionally, the growing popularity of PB and Joy has further inspired local communities to take up the same mantle and start similar projects in their schools.
“For the growth of PB and Joy we are expanding to nearby schools such as Plano and we are also expanding to the Allen ISD elementary schools,” said PB and Joy leader Aida Figueiras. “Some Alumni have also expanded this program to their college so my hope is that it can grow to the point where people give up their afternoon just to help others.”
At the end of the day, PB and Joy are kept alive by the passion and kindness of the students who lead it according to teacher adviser Karen Hunnicut. In the early days of PB and Joy, Hunnicut spearheaded the project with her weekly process of making sandwiches for the homeless with her husband. Now, with hundreds of members, she believes the time students take out of their schedules to contribute to the community is the true heart of the club.
“UBUNTU: It’s an African concept that means ‘I am because we are,” Hunnicut said. “ These kids live this daily, they make the world a better place, and they’re dedicating their time to do so. It is truly beautiful to see that.”