The pandemic prevented Sacred Heart University students from conducting its large-scale turkey drive this season, but they were committed to a decade-old tradition: providing Bridgeport residents with all the ingredients for a delicious Thanksgiving meal.
SHU’s student government, volunteer programs & service learning (VPSL) office, campus ministry and other groups and sports teams donated 450 turkeys and hundreds of non-perishable food items to the Bridgeport community for Thanksgiving and continues to raise funds to feed the hungry in the local area this holiday season.
In past years, the student government conducted numerous campus-based fundraisers and ran a crowdfunding campaign to broaden the support for the turkey drive. An energetic student volunteer dressed in a turkey costume would make stops around campus encouraging staff, faculty and students to donate to the cause. Funds were collected, turkeys were purchased and then members of the student government, as well as many student organizations, would visit St. Charles Borromeo Church in Bridgeport to distribute the goods. The pandemic forced changes for 2020’s drive.
“With the remainder of donated funds from previous years, we were able to donate 450 turkeys to St. Charles this year,” said a written statement from student government. “Delivering the turkeys and fundraising is always a great experience for all student government members involved in assisting and distributing the turkeys to the community. This year, Shop Rite in Milford delivered the turkeys to the church and the church did a drive-by system to hand out the food to the community.”
Shop Rite in Milford is owned by alumnus Harry Garofalo ’80. This is the second year he partnered with SHU’s student government.
“This is an event that everyone on campus loves so much, and it was really hard to come to the understanding that it would not be happening as grand as years prior, but we are grateful to still be able to contribute to this tradition,” the statement continued. “We would like to thank all the generous donors who have contributed over the past few years, as without their donations, we would not be able to continue this student government initiative to help our local community.”
Arlete Perez Paez, VPSL office and program manager, said that without the food and the turkey drives, people would go hungry. “Our community depends on our fundraiser,” she added. “It means a lot to them.”
The community can continue to donate to the turkey drive and help families throughout the holiday season by visiting the drive’s fundraising page.
During the University’s annual interfaith service (which was virtual this year), Annie Wendel, assistant director of VPSL, said that in the midst of an economically challenging year, the food gifts significantly affect SHU’s neighbors. “This year looks really different, but our commitment remains unchanged,” Wendel said. “For those looking to get involved in the community, it’s not too late. Please consider reaching out to local food pantries who may be looking for donations to fulfill a need this holiday season.”
At the service, University chaplains echoed statements that life this year is certainly altered. “Whatever you are doing this Thanksgiving, it will be different,” said Imam Gazmend Aga. “It still remains a unifying and reflective holiday, and it’s a time where we as Americans come together, we reflect, we see each other, we build memories which we hope will last forever.”
Aga said happiness is gratitude. He told viewers watching from their computer screens that, while they may be alone for the holiday, they should feel happy that they have their health during the pandemic. “Absence of COVID will lead to gratitude,” he said. “If you have COVID, you know you have people who love and support you.”
About Sacred Heart University
As the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, and one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., Sacred Heart University is a national leader in shaping higher education for the 21st century. SHU offers more than 80 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its Fairfield, Conn., campus. Sacred Heart also has satellites in Connecticut, Luxembourg and Ireland and offers online programs. More than 9,000 students attend the University’s nine colleges and schools: Arts & Sciences; Communication, Media & the Arts; Social Work; Computer Science & Engineering; Health Professions; the Isabelle Farrington College of Education; the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology; the Dr. Susan L. Davis, R.N., & Richard J. Henley College of Nursing; and St. Vincent’s College. Sacred Heart stands out from other Catholic institutions as it was established and led by laity. The contemporary Catholic university is rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts, and at the same time cultivates students to be forward thinkers who enact change—in their own lives, professions and in their communities. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its Best 386 Colleges–2021 Edition, “Best in the Northeast” and Best Business Schools–2020 Edition. Sacred Heart is home to the award-winning, NPR-affiliated radio station, WSHU, a Division I athletics program and an impressive performing arts program that includes choir, band, dance and theater. www.sacredheart.edu