With Thanksgiving and the winter holidays on the horizon, it’s the time of year when many of us think about giving back — and hundreds of UNH students turned those good intentions into hours of volunteering as part of UNH Serves recently. This year makes the third iteration of UNH Serves, which began in 2013 to encourage students to use their break from classes on Veterans Day to volunteer on campus or in the community.
Mary Faucher, assistant director of residential life, explained prior to the event that about 400 students signed up to volunteer on 19 projects this year.
One of those projects was at Brookdale Senior Living in Durham.
“The students who came to our Fall Harvest dance were wonderful! My residents were so happy — whether it was having a conversation with the students or dancing with them,” explained Louisa Harless, Brookdale’s resident programs director, after the event.
The students helped with setup for the dance, but most of their time was spent with the residents.
Harless explained how students “mingled and danced with our residents. Not one resident was forgotten; the students made it a point to talk to them all. They all interacted with our residents and really got to know them. Afterwards, I was so pleased that the students could share some stories about their conversations.”
And, Harless added, she’s been asked to have the UNH students come back to Brookdale, and some of the student volunteers have “asked to come back as well.”
Cheryl Grady of Campus Ministry worked with students at Saint Thomas More (STM) Catholic Church, sorting through items and stocking the shelves of the church’s food pantry with the many donations from the regional Caring and Sharing Food Drive and a weekly food donation from Hannaford.
“They really helped out a lot,” Grady explained, adding that STM parishioners who have volunteered in the food pantry for years “were really happy to receive such enthusiastic assistance!”
The students also put together ornaments for the church’s "Giving Tree."
“It was a great day,” Grady said. “The rain did not dampen our spirits. STM would like to say a great big thank you to UNH Serves for their great volunteer service on Veterans Day 2015.”
Karen Robichaud of Dover Food Pantry was equally enthusiastic about her UNH Serves volunteers, who sorted and shelved food donations from Dover High School ROTC and Caring and Sharing as well as the monthly order from the New Hampshire Food Bank.
“All in all there were 35 banana boxes, 15 cartons from ROTC and 15 cases of food to go through. They loaded the cases onto the pantry shelves — all of which had to be wiped off from the rain. Then each banana box and carton had to be weighed and all the contents had to then be sorted. Once that was done, the expiration date and condition of each food item had to be checked to meet the state guidelines,” Robichaud said, adding, “That was an amazing amount of food to sort” and without the students, “it would have taken the pantry workers days to go through all of it.”
Meanwhile, during the same week, Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, in conjunction with the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (CEPS), was wrapping up its student-organization food drive competition to benefit End 68 Hours of Hunger Newmarket.
Katelyn Welch ’16, who is majoring in civil engineering, was one of the students who spearheaded this first CEPS CAN JAM Food Drive.
“We collected about 150 items from student organizations and another 50 from faculty and other students,” Welch explained, adding the hope is if CEPS students hold a second CAN JAM next year, the results will be even better with increased awareness of the event.
And the giving-back extended to alumni as well, with events across the country through UNH Serves, including at a beach cleanup in Los Angeles, Calif., the Wildlife Center of Venice in Florida, the Pacers Veterans Day 10K and Walk in Washington, D.C., and with Project Angel Heart in Denver, Colo., and the Ladies of the Lakes Quilters Guild in Wolfeboro, N.H. — just to name a few.
While she was speaking specifically to the Brookdale event, Harless seemed to sum up the general impressions of this year’s UNH Serves event: “Overall, it was a fabulous experience for everyone,” she said.
Dover Food Pantry’s Robichaud agreed. “They were an amazing group of students and a pleasure to work with,” she said, calling UNH Serves “a terrific program and a great opportunity for all.”