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Local soup kitchen holds ‘virtual’ Plunge for Hunger

Published on February 11, 2021

Local soup kitchen holds ‘virtual’ Plunge for Hunger

Rugby team continues enthusiastic support

Rugby team
Members of Eastern's club rugby team, beside coach Ray Aramini (middle), prepare for a plunge in the Natchaug River in supoort of the Covenant Soup Kitchen. 

The Covenant Soup Kitchen held its 10th annual Plunge for Hunger on Feb. 6, this year with a virtual twist. Rather than a crowd of costume-wearing community members and Eastern Connecticut State University students diving into the icy waters of the Natchaug River, supporters participated remotely, “plunging” into anything from a snowy creek to the Atlantic Ocean to their own bathtub, in an effort to raise funds for the Willimantic soup kitchen. 

Renamed the Olga Ezis Plunge for Hunger after the longtime soup kitchen volunteer who died in 2019, the event was again sponsored by Eastern’s club rugby team, which annually serves as the plunge’s lead promoters and most enthusiastic participants. This year’s event stands to raise $160,000 for the soup kitchen, including $80,000 in matching funds from the Jeffrey P. Ossen Foundation (up to $60,000) and the Leo and Rose Pageau Trust (up to $20,000).

“Typically Eastern’s rugby team leads an in-person plunge at Lauter Park in Willimantic, which draws a crowd of up to 200 people,” said rugby club president Thomas Neal, a senior double majoring in criminology and sociology. “Due to the pandemic we were forced to adapt. Coach Ray Aramini came up with the idea for a virtual plunge where participants could send in videos of themselves jumping into freezing waters.”

“Hats off to the Eastern alumni who set a high bar with this event and continue to participate,” said Aramini, noting that many alumni not only take the plunge, but are now at points in their careers where they can fund its mission. “The passion of the rugby team these past 10 years is remarkable. They really drive this event. The plunge has gone from a single-day event to really a focal point year-round.”

This year, the rugby team led a marketing plan on social media, hyping up the event with short videos. Outside of the plunge, the rugby team is active throughout the community and especially at the soup kitchen. “We plan to continue volunteering with Covenant,” said Neal. “We have members at the kitchen every Friday, and other days throughout the week when they require extra assistance.”

The soup kitchen expects to serve more than 700,000 meals to community members in need this fiscal year. To donate, visit

Written by Michael Rouleau