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The Year in Service: Giving Thanks, and Time, Year-Round

Part four of a five-part series on giving back to the community

Volunteers (left to right) Maddy Weber (COM’08), Rachel Mennies (CAS’08), and Steve Reilly (CAS’07) load food into the Student Food Rescue van. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Whether they’re delivering food to local homeless shelters or cleaning up the disaster-stricken Gulf Coast, many students at Boston University are eager to help people in need, in Boston and beyond. BU’s Community Service Center, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this past spring, is a great place for students to seek volunteer opportunities. With 13 student-run service programs — including the popular Alternative Spring Break and Student Food Rescue programs — and a volunteer base of approximately 1,500 people, the CSC clocks in more than 75,000 service hours each year.

In this series, BU Today looks at five community service projects undertaken by BU students during the 2006-2007 academic year. Click here to see “Rebuilding Biloxi: An ASB Story.” Click here to see “FYSOP Opens Up Boston and BU.” Click here for “Students Work to Feed Boston’s Hungry and Homeless.” Check back tomorrow for “BU’s Volunteer Generation.”

Giving Thanks, and Time, Year-Round
Area shelters seek volunteers after holiday rush

By Vicky Waltz

When winter holidays loom like the Abominable Snowman, thoughts inevitably turn to food — turkey with cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, pecan pie. This is also the time that Salvation Army volunteers make their annual appearance outside supermarkets and department stores, their jingling bells reminding patrons that not everyone is fortunate enough to enjoy a hot meal or a warm bed during the holiday season.

“This is when people tend to become more aware of the fact that there are hungry people out there,” says Maureen Merrigan (CAS’08), who volunteers with the Boston University Community Service Center’s Student Food Rescue (SFR). “Our holidays tend to be really focused on food, which makes people want to help those who would otherwise go hungry.”

Volunteer inquiries spike around Thanksgiving, according to Sue Marsh, executive director of Rosie’s Place, a Boston-based shelter for poor and homeless women. In fact, interest is so high that volunteer spots can fill up as early as the summer. “I think people feel more charitable during the holidays because this is the time when we are home and tend to think of our families,” Marsh says. “But women are hungry and homeless every day of the year, and we’re always looking for volunteers.” 

If you’d like to spend part of your holidays volunteering at a soup kitchen or shelter, now is a good time to contact the organizations and sign up for a spot. Below is a list of local organizations where members of the BU community can volunteer — now, later, and any day of the year.

Founded in 1988, BU Student Food Rescue annually collects 150,000 pounds of food from local restaurants, supermarkets, bakeries, and coffee shops and delivers it to area food pantries, shelters, and low-income housing facilities. Students complete 22 two-hour food runs every week. Volunteers must commit for at least one semester. SFR works closely with the local organizations Community Servings and Fair Foods. For more information, call 617-353-4710 or e-mail sfr@bu.edu.

A nondenominational faith-based initiative, the Boston Rescue Mission has aided the homeless and poor of Greater Boston since 1899. The Mission offers food, shelter, and social service programs to homeless men, women, and children, and provides them with the necessary support, training, and resources to eventually sustain independent living. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Morgaine Gilchrist-Scott at 617-338-9000 or mgilchrist-scott@brm.org.

Community Servings provides free home-delivered meals throughout eastern Massachusetts to people with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses who are unable to shop or cook for themselves. Volunteers contribute more than 750 hours each week to prepare, package, and deliver 1,300 meals. Kitchen, van, and Saturday-delivery volunteers are all needed. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Jennifer Pockoski at 617-445-7777 or jpockoski@servings.org.

Since 1988, Fair Foods has transported daily truckloads of usable surplus goods to low-income communities in eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. With the help of more than 200 volunteers, it recycles grocery-quality fresh food and high-grade building materials and delivers them to government agencies, public housing developments, youth organizations, religious groups, community health centers, schools, and food pantries seven days a week. For more information, contact Nancy Jamison, executive director, at 617-288-6185 or njamison@fairfoods.org.

Since opening in 1990, the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, the nation’s first and largest veteran-specific homeless shelter, has provided aid to more than 12,000 veterans. The shelter seeks volunteers for a variety of tasks, including serving meals, administrative duties, and tutoring. For more information, contact the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans at 617-371-1800 or info@neshv.org.

Little Brothers–Friends of the Elderly is a national nonprofit, volunteer-based organization committed to relieving isolation and loneliness among the elderly. On major holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter — volunteers provide companionship and deliver nutritious meals, food packages, and flowers to the elderly. Volunteers also serve as hosts, cooks, and drivers for holiday parties held at the Little Brothers’ house in Jamaica Plain. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Mindy Newman at 617-524-8882.

A shelter for poor and homeless women, Rosie’s Place opened in 1974 to help women maintain their dignity, seek opportunity, and find security in their lives. The shelter serves women as young as 18 and as old as 80, and about a third of its guests have children. Volunteers work in every department and annually donate what would be the work of 21 full-time staff members. Volunteer opportunities are available in the kitchen, clothing room, food pantry, classroom, and more. For more information, contact Rosie’s Place at 617-442-9322.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.

“Giving Thanks, and Time, Year-Round" originally ran on BU Today on November 22, 2006.