SHU Community Provides Thanksgiving Meals for Needy

News Story: November 24, 2015

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Hundreds of turkeys and bags of non-perishable goods were handed out to needy families by Sacred Heart University students Tuesday at St. Charles of Borromeo parish on East Main Street in Bridgeport.

On a brisk morning, dozens of people lined up outside of the church to receive food. The annual event provides families with a turkey and enough food items for a hearty Thanksgiving meal. The efforts of SHU’s Student Government and Office of Volunteer Programs and Service Learning, make the meal distribution possible. Student Government raised money to purchase turkeys and the Office of Volunteer Programs and Service Learning held a food drive all month in collaboration with Campus Ministry.

Andrea Canuel, assistant director at the Office of Volunteer Programs and Service Learning, arrived at the church at 7:45 a.m. She said about 25 people were already in line waiting for food. The line continued to grow throughout the morning.

Of the 375 turkeys purchased through Student Government’s fundraising, Canuel said, 275 were given to families at St. Charles and the other 100 were split among the Golden Hill Methodist Church and Alpha Community Services, both in Bridgeport. Canuel said SHU was just one of the many donors who gave canned goods to St. Charles.

“I think for our community, what seems like a small thing, like collecting canned goods, really makes a huge difference for one day or week for our neighbors,” Canuel said.

As families waited for the turkeys to arrive, they stayed warm with the help of Chartwells. The food service truck, which has helped with meal distribution for the past three years, provided hot chocolate and cookies. Members of the men's lacrosse team, many dressed from head to toe in their red warm-up gear, helped pass out the treats.

“This is a group effort,” said Jon Basti, head coach of SHU’s lacrosse team. His team has been volunteering its time for the past two years. “The guys like doing community service, and they wanted to do more. They know they’re helping people and they don’t mind doing it.”

Canuel said many of the students who helped on Tuesday, including the lacrosse members, students with the Office of Volunteer Programs and Service Learning and a group of students from Student Life, were going home for the holiday after passing out food. Staff members from the Office of Residential Life were also on hand to help out.

“They made this a priority,” Canuel said.

Graduate student Erin McGunnigle ’16, an education major, said she and others helped a lot behind the scenes making sure everything got done properly and that enough donations were made to purchase hundreds of turkeys. “We come here and see what it’s all about,” she said. “Everyone is so thankful.”

Eventually turkeys arrived, and the lacrosse members helped unload the large, heavy boxes filled with four to five turkeys each. Along with turkeys, plastic bags filled with canned goods, stuffing mixes and other items were handed out to people waiting in line. As the students passed out the food, the line moved quickly. “Thanks” and “Happy Thanksgiving” were heard often throughout the morning.