Sacred Heart Food Drives Help Feed 700 Bridgeport Families This Thanksgiving
|Students distribute Thanksgiving food at St. Charles Church in Bridgeport.|
A spirit of charity, community and holiday jubilance visited two Bridgeport parishes Tuesday morning, November 21, as a great number of Sacred Heart University students realized the culmination of their months-long Turkey Drive fundraising efforts, achieving the ambitious goal of distributing 700 complete turkey dinners to local families in need.
Four hundred dinners were distributed at St. Charles Borromeo Parish Roman Catholic Church and 300 were given away at Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church. Distribution was made possible through the collaborative efforts of Volunteer Programs & Service Learning, Student Government, CrossFit and members of the basketball, wrestling and lacrosse teams. SHU has been partnering in this way for the past seven years, since St. Charles’ Sister Ann Moles collaborated with Arlete Carmona, SHU’s office and program manager for Volunteer Programs.
“I would not have been able to do this without Sacred Heart,” Sister Ann commented. “Yesterday I had the most wonderful help — it was a miracle,” she added, with regard to the assistance she received from SHU volunteers (members of the basketball and wrestling teams) who oversaw the delivery, unloading, assembly and storage of all of the supplies in advance of today’s distribution. The athletes provided the same assistance at Blessed Sacrament, to Sister Ann’s counterpart there, Father Skip Karcinski.
Sister Ann had been conducting the food distribution from St. Charles on her own since 1980. The collaboration with SHU — which has piggybacked the effort — has greatly expanded the community outreach St. Charles and Blessed Sacrament can offer. SHU, in fact, supplies a full quarter of the meals for the 1,500 families St. Charles serves at Thanksgiving.
SHU’s Turkey Drive is sponsored by the Student Government, led by Student President Taryn McCormick and facilitated by Student Committee heads Samantha Pignatelli, SG senior class president and Sarah Kosha, SG junior class president. “We exceeded our goals by raising about $12,000 this year,” said Samantha, which gave the school the ability to purchase from a local Price Rite one turkey and a bag of non-perishable sides for each of 700 families that were chosen by the churches through a pseudo-lottery system. To date, including this year, SHU has provided complete turkey dinners to 4,760 families. The funds were amassed through both online donations, volunteer-run collections outside of supermarkets, table set-ups at the school, the Office of Alumni Engagement and dedicated fundraisers at Fairfield’s 16 Handles, Bridgeport’s Chipotle and Trumbull’s Panera Bread restaurants.
In addition to distributing the holiday meals, SHUDining also provided free cups of hot chocolate from The Kitchen Truck that was parked onsite for the morning. The warming beverage was most welcome to the gathering, dressed mostly in heavy coats, scarves and knit hats.
Among the crowd was Angel Reyes, both a holiday meal receiver and site volunteer, who said, “It makes me feel like a better person to witness the gratitude people have. And I get to have fun and engage with people. That smile they give you when they receive their turkey speaks thousands.”
The effort aligns perfectly with SHU’s overall mission of service and, for participating students, like Pignatelli, offered a “time of reflection” and was “humbling.” Like many of her classmates, Samantha considered herself lucky to be able to go home to turkey on the table, when less fortunate families might be going without.
Sarah Kosha suggested that the outreach and student enthusiasm separates SHU from other institutions. “It’s amazing to see. All these students could have gone home, but they chose to stay here. They want to help other people,” she said.
Annie Wendel, SHU’s new assistant director of Volunteer Programs, who was helping oversee the distribution process at St. Charles, echoed Kosha’s observation. “I’m very impressed with the spirit of our volunteers and commitment to our programs. Our office does a nice job of involving students on campus and in the community,” she said.