Homelessness, starvation and pollution.

It's prominent not only within the Knoxville community, but on a national level. Mitigating such issues demands a united force of volunteers willing to give more than mere concern.

Donating time and continued effort, Circle K is that united force.

Tuesday in the Humanities and Social Sciences building, Circle K invited students to step into the world of volunteering, and – by extension – into the world of positive change.

As a service-oriented organization, Circle K's mission is to bring "developing college and university students into a global network of responsible citizens and leaders with a lifelong commitment to service," according to the group's website.

"(Circle K) has 12,600 members in more than 500 college campuses worldwide," the website said.

Circle K is propelled by three core tenets – service, leadership, and fellowship.

The organization applies its members' devotion to volunteerism, fostering leadership skills in the process.

"Circle K gives students the opportunity to come together, serve others and make friends," said Blake Roller, president of UT's chapter and junior double majoring in journalism and electronic media and political science. "Service can be fun with others ... picking up trash is much more fun with doing it with others than by yourself."

At the interest meeting, dozens of students filled the room, socializing and munching on food provided by Kiwanis International, Circle K's parent organization. Attendees viewed introductory videos and power points regarding Circle K's goals and future activities. Bo Shaffer, founder of UT's chapter of Circle K in 1958, made a surprise appearance.

Philanthropy, Shaffer argued, is rewarding, not only for those served but for the volunteer.

"Joy comes from giving, while pleasure comes from taking," Shaffer said. "Happiness is a decision that we make every morning when we get up. Nothing is better than the happiness we get from helping others, and seeing them happy too. That's what Circle K is about."

Current members and interested students alike viewed the event as a success.

"I was very surprised [with the turnout]," Roller said. "The last time we had a meeting, we had 65 in our meeting, but it was very cramped. Even though we had a much larger room, we still got swarmed, but we're definitely excited with the turnout."

Taylre Beaty, a freshman in food and agricultural business, left the meeting enthusiastic about Circle K's upcoming events.

"I thought the meeting was fantastic, and I am pumped," Beaty said. "I'm excited for this year, getting involved, helping out people in the community and volunteering at Pond Gap Elementary."

Due to the high attendance and interest generated at the meeting, the organization is implementing several changes, including a "points" system and a unique medallion for those especially dedicated.

Sharena Domingo, sophomore in food and agricultural business, feels that this incentive will help keep students continuously involved in the club throughout the year.

"The points-rewards system will bring out the competitiveness in the students, keeping them active and dedicated," Domingo said. "(As for) the medallion, students must log at least 100 service hours online as students at the CLS (Center for Leadership and Service) website, and they can wear it during their graduation. It's a way for UT to make students live up to their name as volunteers."

The organization plans to hold campus clean-ups, volunteer visits at the Ronald McDonald House and aid efforts for other service organizations.

"Several events we've worked with in the past include the URHC (United Residence Halls Council) Trunk or Treat, the Running with Hope 5K and Boo at the Zoo," Roller said. "Last year, we had one event where we sold bracelets made by Filipino families, and sent the profits back to them to aid those who were in poverty."

Ideal for sparking new friendships, Circle K engenders camaraderie between members.

"I've made new friends and stayed in contact with old friends through Circle K," Roller said. "I want to continue providing those opportunities to incoming students, especially freshmen, who want to get involved in campus, and those who have not been able to qualify for other clubs."

Circle K's next meeting will be on Sept. 25, at 6:30 p.m. in HSS. For more information, students can visit the UTK Circle K Facebook page or their main site here.