On Nov. 23, Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its fifth annual "Day of Giving" Thanksgiving dinner for community members who are patrons of local soup kitchens, senior centers and other social service agencies. Upwards of 500 local residents enjoyed the Thanksgiving meal, which took place in Hurley Hall. In addition, almost $2,500 was raised towards food contributions to local food pantries, and more than 5,000 canned goods were collected.
The Day of Giving was started by Jason Budahazy '09 in 2007, and his father, Jay, was on hand to donate more than 300 canned goods and help celebrate the festivities. This year, members of Eastern's student clubs People Helping People and Best Buddies, led by Center for Community Engagement (CCE) staff, organized the event. They enlisted community-wide support from Eastern's administration, housing staff, other student clubs and organizations, Chartwells Dining Services, the Office of Institutional Advancement, the Windham school system, the Windham Housing Authority, Ted's IGA, the Willimantic Food Co-Op, Highland Park of Coventry, Plainfield's Better Value, East Hampton's Stop & Shop, the East Brook Mall, Main Street Café, the Lebanon Green Market and others.
In addition to the Thanksgiving meal, a large-scale food drive took place in the local community as well as on the Eastern campus. All food items were donated to the Northeast Food Collaborative, which consists of local food charities such as the Covenant Soup Kitchen, Access Agency, Catholic Charities and others.
"Eastern's Day of Giving is a special event because it is student-driven," said Scott Nolan '12, a political science major from Windsor Locks and one of the coordinators of this year's event. "It could not be possible without the help of several key professionals and crucial departments here at Eastern, such as the CCE under its director, Kimberly Silcox; Eastern's AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers Brittney Cava '12 and Kristina Scherber; the student club People Helping People; overwhelming support from the University; and especially the ECSU Foundation, Inc., without which this event would not be possible."
"Eastern really stepped up," said Kate Harner '12, another event organizer, in describing how Eastern students doubled the on-campus food collection from last year. "I love just knowing that we made a difference."
"I walk into this room every year (for the Day of Giving) and I am always so proud that I am president of this great university," Eastern President Elsa Núñez told the crowd. "Our students come to Eastern to study, but they also come to help the community. For a lot of families, this is the only Thanksgiving meal they will have."