FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Sacred Heart University’s community―students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends―have raised nearly $19,000 to date to purchase the first 600 Thanksgiving turkeys for Bridgeport families. Fundraising continues to feed an additional 600 families in December.
The student government sponsored the drive, with the generous partnership of alum Harry Garafalo ’80, his nephew James Garafalo and ShopRite of Milford.
This is one of student government’s major community outreach initiatives. The long-standing, 11-year tradition unites members of SHU’s community by giving to others.
In addition to the turkey drive, the volunteer programs & service learning (VPSL) office and SHU athletics conducted a food drive to collect nonperishable goods throughout November. Thanks to the help of Arlete Perez Paez, assistant director of VPSL, by the start of Thanksgiving break, participants brought in more than 1,000 items, which were then blessed at the University’s annual interfaith service.
Keeping with tradition, the turkeys and nonperishable goods were portioned off for donations to St. Charles Borromeo Church, Golden Hill United Methodist Church and Southwest Health Community Center, all in Bridgeport.
On the chilly Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving, student life groups and SHU student-athletes gathered at St. Charles. Dressed in heavy parkas, snow boots and SHU-branded hats and scarfs, the volunteers distributed the goods, placing turkeys and a reusable shopping bag filled with other food items into community members’ cars.
“Times are tough for everyone, and it’s really nice that we’re all able to come together, raise money and help out the community,” said Connie Cuccurese, assistant director of student engagement & involvement. Cuccurese helped oversee the drive and said she’s proud of what the students accomplished as they went to local businesses for donations, collected goods at a Sunday Mass, set up a booth for contributions at football games and encouraged staff to donate.
Bella Scarmack, a senior accounting major and the turkey drive’s lead organizer, said plans for this year’s collections began in the summer. “I can’t believe the day is here,” she said while holding a turkey that was going out for distribution. “It’s been an exciting semester, and it’s nice our hard work has paid off. The community has been so kind and grateful.”
Alejandro Ramos, senior and student government president, participated in the turkey drive for the first time this year. He knew it would be a great event, but on the morning of distribution, he said he was overwhelmed with joy.
“It’s just been incredible,” Ramos said. “Everyone talks about how wonderful this event is, but I never thought it would be like this. I’m just so happy that we’re able to give these families a memorable Thanksgiving."
The community can continue to donate to the turkey drive and help families throughout the holiday season by visiting the drive’s fundraising page. Student government, with the help of alum Doug Wade ’77, plan to distribute turkeys and other essential food items to community members in time for the holidays at Wade’s Dairy in Bridgeport on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 9 a.m.
During the University’s annual interfaith service the week before Thanksgiving, students, staff and faculty gave thanks for their many blessings. The SHU choir sang, and community members read psalms and prayers.
Venerable Shim Bo, the University’s Buddhist chaplain, said there is so much to be thankful and grateful for at SHU. He was pleased so many people donated food items but hoped that, in in the coming weeks, the community would donate things like smiles, fist pumps, high fives, a sense of humor and kindness.
“We can be as generous with these things as with the food items,” Shim Bo said.
Toward the end of the service, Imam Gazi Aga, the University’s Muslim chaplain, blessed the food items and told those sitting in the pews that recognizing the bounties around them was important. “The spirit of the universe has been generous to us. Oh God, we thank you,” he said.
About Sacred Heart University
As the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, and one of the fastest-growing private doctoral institutions in the U.S., Sacred Heart University is a national leader in shaping higher education for the 21st century. SHU offers nearly 90 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its Fairfield, Conn., campus. Sacred Heart also has a campus in Dingle, Ireland, and offers online programs. More than 10,000 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 & Human Development; 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 388 Colleges–2023 Edition, and Best Business Schools–2022 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 theatre. www.sacredheart.edu