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Eastern’s Day of Giving 2016 Huge Success

Published on November 28, 2016

Eastern’s Day of Giving 2016 Huge Success

More than 800 Willimantic residents converged on Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 23 for the 10th annual Day of Giving. The event provides a hot holiday meal to people who otherwise may not have been able to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner.

In conjunction with the Day of Giving, members of the Eastern community donated more than 2,100 canned food items and raised more than $1,400 for local food pantries and shelters. “What’s really heartwarming about this event is that after a very divisive election, Eastern and the community have come together in a wonderfully warm partnership to celebrate our core values and inclusiveness,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “This goes to show that Eastern’s commitment to the community is not superficial; it’s very deep.”

“I don’t think there’s a nicer thing that any university could do for its community,” said retired Connecticut State Sen. Edith Prague ’65. Speaking to the quality of the spread, she said, “The people get a full meal, they sit at a table with a tablecloth, they eat off nice plates and have regular silverware. I’m proud to say I graduated from Eastern.”

The Day of Giving is sponsored by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), which partners with the Covenant Soup Kitchen and other social service agencies in Willimantic that help to promote the event and provide transportation to Eastern. For the four weeks leading up to the Day of Giving, the CCE conducted a food drive to support local food pantries, including the Covenant Soup Kitchen and Salvation Army in Willimantic. In addition to collecting canned goods on campus, area grocery stores that participated included Willimantic Food Co-op, Bob’s IGA and Norwich Stop and Shop.

“For the residents of Ashton Tower, Wilbur Cross and Father Honan Terrace, the Day of Giving means sharing and spending times with friends and meeting new people,” said Arka Mikel, director of social services at the Willimantic Housing Authority.

“Eastern is proud to support our local community in so many ways: through providing volunteers to area nonprofits, schools and municipalities; by encouraging students, faculty and staff to ‘buy local’ and support businesses in Windham; and by serving community members who might otherwise not have a Thanksgiving meal,” said CCE Director Kim Silcox.

The menu included turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and squash, cranberry sauce, stuffing, rolls, salad and more. The turkeys were provided by the ECSU Foundation, which also provided transportation for guests; other food was donated by Chartwells, Eastern’s food provider. “Community is a pillar of Chartwell’s beliefs,” said Jeffrey Kwolek, senior director of Chartwells Food Service. “We are honored and humbled to be an integral part of the community in which our employees work and live.”

Eastern students have a big role in the Day of Giving, serving food, escorting guests and cleaning up after the event. “We’re here today to give hundreds of people food to eat, to better the lives of the people in the community,” said Dajoun Jones ’17, a student leader with the CCE. “We have people here, less fortunate, who wouldn’t be able to have a Thanksgiving meal. They know they can come here and feel appreciated.”

people together, and we all go home happy, feeling like a butterball turkey!” Kathy Cyrs, who volunteers at the Coventry Soup Kitchen and First Baptist Church, said, “It’s great for people who have no home or family to go home to. This is a big gain for everyone.” Willimantic resident Katie Ellis said she likes that “Day of Giving accepts everyone, just as they are, and it teaches Eastern students the value of civic responsibility.” Alexis Allen, of Danielson, said, this was her first visit to Day of Giving, “and I am overwhelmed at the great atmosphere here. It’s a good feeling to see Eastern caring for so many needy people at this time of the year.”

The Day of Giving was founded by alumnus Jason Budahazy ’09 in 2007. He currently lives in California, but in his absence, his father, Jay Budahazy, attended the event. “I don’t think anybody ever anticipated this getting so huge,” said Jay Budahazy. There’s more and more of a call for it every year. This is probably the best meal some of these people will have all year. People say one person can’t make a difference. I think this goes to show that yes they can.”

Written by Dwight Bachman