Do you hear what I hear?

It's beginning to sound a lot like Christmas.

Blustery winds and chilly temperatures didn't stop members of MU's Wakonse residence from caroling on Sunday in several Columbia neighborhoods. In return for each serenade, the students asked residents to donate canned goods for the city's needy residents.

"We had a ball," said freshman Yvonne Holland. "I guess it really is the season of giving."

Wrapped in winter coats and mittens, the students began caroling with nothing but empty bags and high spirits. By the end of the afternoon, they had filled three bags with canned goods.

"We got a lot of cans for the amount of time we were out there and the area we covered," said service coordinator Michael Wunsch. "We were very grateful for that."

Some residents were so charmed by the carolers they donated more than just cans. One household offered the shivering carolers a freshly baked batch of Christmas cookies.

"The best part was seeing the smiles on the faces of the people who opened the door," said sophomore Julie LaBarge. "It got us in the holiday spirit."

Some carolers said singing was a good way to have fun, help the community and take a break from studying.

"The purpose of the project was two-fold: for fun and for service," Wunsch said.

The Central Missouri Food Bank desperately needs the canned food, Wunsch said.

"The food bank is seeing an incredible surge in demand," he said. "The need has never been greater."

As need has increased each year, so has the amount of food the bank has received. This year, the bank estimates it should collect 4,644,794 pounds.

Caroling for charity was just one of the many activities Wakonse students organized this semester. The group also volunteered at several other not-for-profit organizations.

"The benefits of service are multifold," Wunsch said. "It's a good way to give back to the community and to connect with the community."

The Wakonse residence, established in 1994, encourages its residents to become aware of their off-campus surroundings.

"The basic goal of the residence is to provide a community within the university so that students have personal contact and don't feel lost on such a large campus," Wunsch said.

Wunsch said he wanted the group's service projects, like caroling, to be both beneficial and social activities.

"We want to have projects that are fun to do," he said. "It's a lot of fun and community building."

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