On Sundays at St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church in Downtown Orlando, many people gather in search of something most others take for granted.
Many of Orlando’s homeless come for the Sunday Knight College Food Share program, where donated food is disbursed by UCF students. Buzzing around the patient crowd is a young, well-dressed student. While handing out food and collecting notes in a prayer box, she moves among the crowd, greeting friends and welcoming newcomers.
She’s not here to make herself look good or to satisfy community service hours. She’s here because she knows what many of the homeless are going through. She’s here because there was a time when she, too, was homeless.
“I keep doing it because I know how some of those people may feel when they are homeless because I went through the same thing,” said Ny’a Crum, a junior interdisciplinary sciences major. “I just to talk to them. Being able to pray for them and being able to be with them all the time — it just makes me happy.”
When Crum was 9 years old, her family lost their house in Tampa.
Crum, her mother and her three younger siblings all moved into a homeless shelter, where they lived for two years.
“It was hard, but I knew I had to pull through,” Crum said.
In the shelter, her mother suffered a nervous breakdown and Crum and her siblings were moved to their aunt’s house. Life there wasn’t easy, and after high school Crum needed a change.
“I couldn’t stay in her house any longer. I had to go off to college,” she said.
Crum has a strong faith, and said it is a big component of her life. She said her relationship with God is something that has helped her through all of her struggles.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I can’t thank him for bringing me through [this] because I know that I couldn’t do that, especially when I was stressed out and depressed all the time,” Crum said.
Since coming to UCF, Crum has volunteered with the Sunday Knight College Food Share on a regular basis. She is now the marketing coordinator of the group, and has even been inspired to chase a new goal of becoming a motivational speaker.
The Food Share president, Todd Currie, said that Crum’s eagerness to help others is just part of her personality.
“She wants to be able to inspire others as her job and just be able to see people be lifted up, whether it’s through praying, through work or just speaking with them. That’s something she values highly,” Currie said.
Alana Knowles, a close friend of Crum at UCF, spoke of the inspiration Crum radiates through her work.
“She spends her own money to make food for the homeless. It’s really inspirational,” Knowles said.
Crum has not only come out of a despairing situation, but has come back to help others.
“My purpose is to help people. My purpose is to give back to the community,” Crum said. ”I want to inspire and empower people to believe in themselves — to know that no matter what your past is you can still become something in your future.”
Watch Ny'a talk about her story and where she is today here.