Students who attend the university through the Wildcat Friends program took their community service project for the month of December full circle.
First, they made evergreen wreaths, manning a table at the MUB and taking orders for delivery. Then they took the $1,400 profit from the sale of the 125 wreaths and went grocery shopping with students from Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and Alpha Xi Delta sorority. Last week, they got together at Alpha Xi Delta to box up the nonperishables for delivery to Cornucopia, UNH’s food pantry, where it will fill baskets for those in need this holiday season.
Community service is an integral part of Greek life on campus. It is also are the core of the Wildcat Friends curriculum. Launched in 2009, the project gives young adults with developmental disabilities the chance to attend college. It was founded by Heidi Chase 87’ ‘95G, director of Friends in Action, a nonprofit organization that creates social and recreation opportunities for young disabled adults.
The 40 students in the program are on campus once a week, attending class, eating in the dining halls, and participating in community service or recreational activities. This is the second year they’ve raised money to help Cornucopia feed members of the UNH community.
“This has been a great project. A lot of kids have gotten so close,” says senior Diana Clayburgh, community service chair for Alpha Xi Delta. She and the other sisters have spent the semester working alongside Wildcat Friends on community service projects and in recreational activities. Several sorority members as well as some of the fraternity brothers were on hand last week as the food was sorted and boxed.
Clayburgh walked around the room, helping students decide which box still needed stuffing; cranberry sauce; a can of olives.
“Doing something like this, everyone feels so good afterward. It’s been so rewarding,” she says.
Sophomore Maggie Saliba agrees. She got involved with Wildcat Friends last year as an assignment for her community leadership major. This year she is doing an internship with the program.
“It’s been an awesome experience,” says Saliba who wants to turn Wildcat Friends into a student organization. “This isn’t about just serving as the kids’ buddies. They don’t just want a buddy; they want to feel they are on the same level as their peers. This kind of project helps them feel they are.”
Chase adds, “Wildcat Friends has been so well received. After three-and-a half years on campus, we’ve had lots of students asking ‘how can we help; how can we get involved; how can we make this permanent.’ It’s fantastic to get that kind of support.”
Wildcat Friends is fee-based and has limited enrollment. To be considered for the program, participants have to have been involved in other Friends Project activities for at least six to 12 months. For more information, visit http://www.friendsinactionnh.org/join-a-program/. Read more about Cornucopia at http://www.cornucopia.unh.edu/.