FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Sacred Heart University did it again: students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends of the University raised a record amount of money to purchase 1,000 holiday turkeys for the community.
Each year, SHU’s student government hosts its annual turkey drive before Thanksgiving as one of its major community outreach initiatives. This long-standing tradition unites members of the SHU community by giving back to others.
Donations totaled more than $25,000, and 1,000 turkeys were purchased thanks to a generous partnership with alumnus Harry Garafalo ’80, his nephew James Garafalo and ShopRite of Milford. Half of the turkeys were handed out at the annual Thanksgiving distribution event at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Bridgeport, and the rest will be given out to the community on December 11 for a distribution at Wade’s Dairy in Bridgeport. Alumnus Doug Wade ’77 is owner of Wade’s.
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and the distribution at St. Charles, volunteer programs & service learning (VPSL) and campus ministryheld a food drive. At the end of the food drive, more than 1,000 items were collected and then blessed at the University’s annual interfaith service. The nonperishable goods were then divvied up and packaged with a turkey, ready to feed a hungry family.
On the chilly Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving, dozens of student-volunteers from VPSL, student government, student life and SHU athletics gathered at St. Charles Borromeo Church to pass out the packages of food to families. Community members drove up or walked up to student-volunteers who gave them a turkey and a New England Patriots-branded reusable shopping bag filled to the brim with food items. SHU Dining’s food truck also came by the church to provide hot chocolate and cookies.
Student-coordinators of the turkey drive, Bella Scarmack and Liv Chaponis, said they were impressed by the amount of donations that came in and were pleased SHU could help so many people. The coordinators were so excited they couldn’t sleep the night before the distribution. They said they wanted the day to go as well as possible.
“Students and their families, staff, faculty and alumni did a lot for us. I think everyone wanted to give a little more this year, especially after last year’s hardships,” said Chaponis, a senior studying neuroscience who is on the pre-med track. Chaponis is the class of 2022 president.
“It was really awesome to watch the thermometer on the fundraising page just continue to go up and up throughout the month,” said Scarmack, a junior studying accounting and management. She is vice president of SHU’s student government senate.
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 held in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit the week before Thanksgiving, students, staff and faculty gave thanks for their many blessings, including food, drink, family, work and rest. The SHU choir sang songs, and community members read psalms and prayers.
University chaplain, Imam Gazmend Aga, said Thanksgiving is about gratitude, and in that gratitude, people will find awareness. “Being aware, you have value in the sight of God, being aware that He loves you, being aware of your partner, being aware of your parents, being aware of your health … being aware of all the bounties that we have and that the source is God.”
Aga hopes this Thanksgiving drive helps those who need food and other material items as well as people who are poor in their hearts and spirits.
Toward the end of the service, Valerie Kisselback, campus minister, prepared a blessing for the food items that lined the alter of the chapel before they were packaged and distributed. Boxes and boxes of canned goods, pasta, rice, cereal, stuffing mix and other items were stacked on top of one another. Kisselback thanked the SHU community for donating the goods and said hundreds of families will have a hearty meal because of it.
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 nearly 90 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 387 Colleges–2022 Edition, “Best Northeastern” and Best Business Schools–2021 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