By Greg Dool
As part of the annual Father Ray Jackson’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week events, Campus Ministry will once again hold a Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner Drive tommorow to benefit poor and homeless individuals in local communities.
Campus Ministry staff and volunteers will be at the circle in front of Connelly Center from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. accepting donations. Turkey dinners can be donated by both individuals and groups.
Proceeds will then be driven to three different locations: Project H.O.M.E., an organization devoted to ending homelessness in Philadelphia, the Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center in North Philadelphia and the North Light Community Center in Manayunk.
“Project H.O.M.E. often asks for an exact number of donations, but people are so generous that we started to have a surplus,” said William Stehl, associate director of Campus Ministry. “As a result, we are also including the two other community centers.”
While Campus Ministry staff and interns will be working to quickly load and unload donations, volunteers are welcome.
In recent years, the Turkey Dinner Drive has seen an estimated 130 to 150 donations, all from members of the University community. Donors are asked to include a turkey, potatoes, stuffing, seasonal vegetables, dinner rolls, pie, cranberry sauce, applesauce and gravy.
Individuals are invited to donate but because of the all-inclusive nature of the turkey dinners, the majority of donations come from groups, such as fraternities and sororities, sports teams, residence halls and faculty departments, where one person can be in charge of getting each item.
“Part of what Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week tries to do is get people consciously involved,” Stehl said. “When someone goes to the supermarket to pick up one of these items for someone in need there is a level of personal involvement and thoughtfulness that benefits both the person buying the item and the person receiving it.”
It is in that vein of community involvement and unity that the Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner Drive reflects the greater mission of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week: a collaborative effort by all members of the community to improve the lives of those less fortunate. Donating a turkey dinner as a group is a quick and easy way of doing that.
To allow organizers to better anticipate the number of donations and relay that information to the centers receiving them, donors are asked to pre-register online. The form can be found on the Campus Ministry website.
One of the receiving locations in particular need of donations is the North Light Community Center in Manayunk which serves as a community center aimed at helping fortunate citizens to get back on their feet.
In recent years, gentrification around Main Street in Manayunk has led to the perception that North Light is less in need of support than other centers with similar missions, leaving the community center in financial trouble. NOVAL, the North Light Villanova Alliance, is a University coalition designed to helping the center meet its monetary and organizational needs.
“North Light is a longtime partner with the University,” Stehl said. “NOVAL is made up of all kinds of students who work as a unit to comprehensively address the needs of the community center. It is truly a unique way of using all University resources.”
In hard economic times, especially in the wake of a natural disaster, North Light is one of just many local centers in desperate need of donations. With the help of the University community, though, several struggling Philadelphia families will eat well this Thanksgiving.