Jaspers Give Back to the Bronx for Thanksgiving

by ROSE BRENNAN & HALEY BURNSIDE, A&E Editor & Senior Writer

The holiday spirit among Manhattan College students has turned into a motivation to give back to the community. In the weeks surrounding the Thanksgiving break, a number of charitable initiatives are happening on and off campus with the help of students.

Making its annual return to the campus in the form of neon pink boxes is the Just Peace Period Project. The club is collecting women’s sanitary products which will be given to multiple resource centers in the Bronx. The project is being organized by Carly Brownell, the new president of Just Peace. She is excited to take over the Period Project because she sees it as an important issue that needs more help and attention.

“This is an important issue for students to be involved with because [menstrual health] is such a great need that so few people are talking about,” said Brownell. “Pads and tampons are really expensive, and so people in need, especially homeless people, have very limited access to them. This can lead to all sorts of health issues including infections and toxic shock syndrome.”

Brownell cites several reasons why this project is a great one for students to easily participate, and it will make a world of difference in the end.

“It really is a life or death problem that we are trying to help address. Also, it is an important issue for students to be involved with because it is so easy to donate. So many people have stashes of pads and tampons from which they can take at least a few to donate,” said the club’s president.

The Just Peace Club has set a goal of 4,000 pads or tampons based on the number of supplies they collected last year, and Brownell is hopeful that they can surpass that number.

“We are always blown away each year by the generosity of Manhattan College students when it comes to this drive, and we hope this year will be no different,” said Brownell.

The Period Project is just one of many opportunities students have to donate to the less fortunate this season. A canned food drive organized by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz is going on until the end of the semester.

Victoria Thomas, a recent Manhattan College graduate, is assisting with the organization of the drive, showing that the desire to give back to the community does not stop with graduation for Jaspers.

“I graduated Manhattan College this past May with a Bachelor of Arts in History. I am currently working in Assemblyman Dinowitz’s district office as a Community Liaison,” said Thomas.

“We’re organizing our annual holiday food drive which we will be collecting canned goods and non-perishables for up until December 12th. All the food collected is then given to Kingsbridge Heights Community Center and Saint Frances of Rome food pantry who then distribute to those in need,” said Thomas.

Though there is no numerical goal for the cans collected, the organizers are hoping to help as many people as possible during this important time of the year.

“Our goal is to make sure that those who are less fortunate have the opportunity to celebrate and enjoy their holiday season,” said Thomas.

The canned goods can be dropped off in the Campus Ministry Social Action Suite on the second floor of Kelly Commons from now until the end of the semester.

CMSA is also partnering with City Harvest for a Mobile Market in Washington Heights for a special Thanksgiving-themed service project on Tuesday, Nov. 20.

“City Harvest delivers fresh fruits and vegetables, free of charge, to thousands of New Yorkers through the Mobile Market program each month at these markets,” said Kathleen Von Euw, MC’s assistant director of community engagement and partnerships. “At the Mobile Markets, community members gather in farmers’ market settings, where they receive fresh produce and participate in cooking demonstrations to learn how to make healthy meals, and our MC volunteers help distribute this produce.”

According to Von Euw, CMSA partners with City Harvest regularly for its “Service on Saturday” program.  Thus far, six students have signed up for the upcoming Thanksgiving-themed Mobile Market.

CMSA is also involved in what will be the college’s first Midnight Run.  The Midnight Run is a worldwide program that involves drawing together essential provisions and clothing and then distributing them to homeless people within the area.

Senior Kaitlyn von Runnen is helping to organize this inaugural Midnight Run, which was held on Friday, Nov. 30.  The program will consist of two parts: preparation, which will involve assembling food and snacks, which will then be distributed during the Run itself.

“During the preparation period from 4 p.m. [to] 10 p.m. in Cornerstone, participants will be able to bond and build connections with each other prior to embarking on the experience,” von Runnen said. “Students will share a meal together, and also have a small pre-trip reflection/prayer to address the experience they will have in a few hours.”

The group plans to distribute the goods around the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Midtown Manhattan, the home parish of Fr. Tom Franks, MC’s chaplain.  The Run itself took place from 10:30 p.m. onward.

The Midnight Run is being organized through the college’s newly-created Peer Ministry program.  Von Runnen is a part of this program, which began this semester.

“The program places emphasis on the practice of faith in our Lasallian identity on a Catholic college campus,” von Runnen said. “The Peer Ministry is open, accepting and welcoming to any student regardless of their religious beliefs and practices. Overall, the program serves as a way to discuss faith, its role in our lives,  and build a stronger Jasper community on campus.”

Whether in the form of the Period Project, a canned food drive, a Mobile Market or a Midnight Run, MC is remaining committed to its service-oriented mission, which Von Euw cannot stress enough.

“I would actually say that service projects are no more important during the Thanksgiving season than any other season,” she said. “When the season of giving ends, the needs still remain.”

She continued.

“It is particularly important for people to remember that meaningful, ethical community engagement must be ongoing and must be sustainable. That is why we do our best to consistently work with the same organizations, not just when the holidays roll around,” Von Euw said.