December 27, 2021
Written By: Main Street Square
Volunteering is not something that most sixth graders ever think about, but it is something that Maia Riker Acevedo has been doing for the past five years during her summers and breaks from school. When Maia was in the sixth grade, she started volunteering at Fork Real Community Café, a non-profit pay-what-you-can community cafe located in downtown Rapid City, and has not looked back. “Mrs. [Rhonda] Pearcy was my fourth-grade teacher at Wilson Elementary. She left to open Fork Real two years after she taught me. I had an opportunity to volunteer at the café with a friend that needed volunteer credit. Even after she was done with her hours, I kept coming back,” Maia said.
If you have been to Fork Real you have probably seen Maia. “She does any and everything here at Fork Real—food prep, cashier, hostess, mopping or anything we need her to do. It’s been great to watch her grow,” stated David Pearcy, co-founder of the non-profit. For most teenagers, volunteering their time is not a common practice or even in their thought process. That is what makes Maia different. “Maia was 11 and 12 and loved coming in to help. She would ride her skateboard to the café four days a week when we were located in The Creamery building. That is dedication and discipline,” added Pearcy.
Maia not only has been volunteering at Fork Real for the past five years but also volunteers for another one of her passions: music. “I love playing music and I often perform at dinners, socials, and parties for Catholic Social Services and other organizations.” Maia’s love for music has even presented post-high school opportunities, as she has already received a scholarship offer for participation in All-State Orchestra four years in a row.
Maia’s mother Patri understands exactly why her daughter enjoys volunteering. “It is all she has known. Rhonda and the volunteers at the café took Maia under their wing and showed her work ethic and discipline. She had to figure out how to get to the café every day. We knew it was a great thing for her for that reason and we saw how much she loved it.”
Maia’s relationship with Rhonda started in a classroom and her teachings continue at the café. “Mrs. Pearcy knew what I liked doing and gave me an opportunity to express myself, whether it’s writing out the menu board, creating the place cards for dinners, or decorating the cheesecake. I love decorating the cheesecakes because I get to follow a process and be creative. I love eating the cheesecake scraps too. Because of Mrs. Pearcy and the other volunteers, being at the café never felt like work… it felt like family and that’s why I love it.”
The soft-spoken Maia has never had a paying job before, as she has only volunteered her time but is looking to get a job next summer. The skills she has learned volunteering at the café will carry over to whatever Maia wants to do in the future.
“I would love to do something visual, animation art, or something I can see.” Decorating thousands of slices of cheesecakes is only the beginning.