ESL Students Help Mercy Learning Center Food Pantry

News Story: January 17, 2013

A CNN program featuring Bono, lead guitarist of U2 and a leader in the fight against world poverty, and George Clooney, the actor who established the organization, T0 MAKE POVERTY HISTORY, struck a chord with Sacred Heart University Service Learning Coordinator Natalie Skinner.

Skinner, an ESL (English as a Second Language) instructor at SHU, said recently, “We don’t have to look as far away as the Third World to see some of the global problems of hunger, disease and poverty. Thanks to the social mission of the University, our ESL students are no strangers to these issues that exist within a five-mile radius of the University campus.”

Recently, a group of ESL students who are also Service Leaning Volunteers became aware of the food pantry shortage at the Mercy Learning Center in Bridgeport. This Park Avenue institution is a haven for low-income families. There, mothers study English as a second language while their children attend day-care five days a week.

Sacred Heart’s ESL students decided they should address the local problems in Bridgeport. Their solution? Scale back the end-of-session international brunch and work on the Mercy Learning Center’s Food Pantry Wish List. The plan included collecting food, children’s items, and household supplies, instead of doing what they usually do: sampling typical foods from different countries at a gathering. The effort, which included Service Learning ESL students as well as local alumni, was held in the University Commons. More donations followed, and University College Dean Mary Lou DeRosa announced that the administrative staff of University College would be donating to the food pantry drive.

The Food Pantry Wish List was developed by the Mercy Learning Center, under the leadership of Director Jean Ferreira, to meet some of the basic needs of low-income families struggling with unemployment and the harsh realities of the economic downturn. To make donations to the food pantry or to donate clothing to its thrift store, call 203-334-6699.

For further information about the ESL students’ outreach to the Mercy Learning Center, call Dr. Pam Fairman, director of ESL, at 203-365-7528 or email her at