Hundreds of families in need lined up at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Bridgeport just before Thanksgiving to receive uncooked turkeys and bags of non-perishable food from Sacred Heart University students for their holiday dinners.
Carrying out an annual tradition, students from various campus groups—including the Office of Volunteer Programs & Service Learning, SHU’s Student Government, Campus Ministry and the men’s lacrosse team—all arrived at the church bright and early to help with the distribution.
“It’s all about giving back to the community,” said Jon Basti, head coach of the men’s lacrosse team. “It’s important for our guys to realize how lucky they are to have what they have. It makes them appreciate it. And they love taking part in this. They really do look forward to it every year.”
The team members came in shifts on the cold, windy day; one group arrived at 8:30 a.m. and another appeared at 9:30 a.m. Basti said the lacrosse team logs 1,000 hours of community service each year, but the Thanksgiving meal distribution is one of the most inspiring community service activities in which they participate.
The student-athletes carried hundreds of turkeys off a truck from Stew Leonard’s market and handed them out to people who were waiting on line, sipping hot chocolate provided by SHU’s food services to stay warm. Thanks to nearly $8,000 the Student Government raised to purchase the turkeys, there were 300 birds for the families at St. Charles, and another 100 were divided between Alpha Community Services and Golden Hill United Methodist Church, both in Bridgeport.
In addition, the Office of Volunteer Programs & Service Learning conducted a food drive in collaboration with Campus Ministry for non-perishable food items, which students sorted at the church, put into plastic bags and distributed.
Kat Seckler, a Student Government member and junior majoring in social work, said she wanted to participate in the distribution because, “I wanted to give to people who don’t have as much as I do.”
Senior Olivia Traina, another Student Government member, was participating in the event for the first time. She said that, when she arrived at the church and saw people standing in line, she already knew the University’s efforts had made an impact.
Andrea Canuel, assistant director of Volunteer Programs & Service Learning, said the annual distribution is important. “As students are getting ready to go home and spend time with their families, they take the time to help people in the community and make sure they can enjoy the holidays with their families too,” she said.
Canuel said purchasing all the items for a Thanksgiving meal is a big expense. “Some families can’t spare that extra cost,” she said. In light of that, families also received food that could last them after Thanksgiving, such as cereal and bread.