By, Angelina Persaud, Assistant News Editor
Campus Ministry and Social Action (CMSA) is preparing to bring food and aid to the local homeless community through an initiative called the Midnight Run.
Although the Midnight Run is a nationwide initiative that many colleges participate in, the program at Manhattan College began as an idea from students involved in campus ministry who wanted a way to give back to the local Bronx community.
The program aims to provide services to the homeless community by preparing and delivering food and other necessities.
Connor Reidy, campus minister and organizer of the event, elaborated on the purpose of conducting the event during the Lenten and Advent seasons.
“It is a time for reflection and service. They’re kind of these preparatory seasons in the calendar of the Catholic world in which we are called to do for others” Reidy said.
The program isn’t limited to Catholic students but rather serves a double purpose to connect students across campus in their goal to serve others.
“All students of any walks of life of any faith journey of any background can of course, be involved and come get to know one another,” Reidy said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the program also felt the influence in terms of having a fragmented set of volunteers and difficulty engaging incoming students.
Reidy emphasized that the in-person nature of the initiative this year was symbolic of returning to normalcy and furthering the connection amongst the community.
“We want to find a way to get them in the door to learn their names to have them get comfortable in our spaces and have them join us and then we hope this can be the building blocks so that they can come join us for more programs,” Reidy said.
Father Thomas Franks explained the main outcomes of the initiative and how it’s helped to foster a closer connection between the students and the community.
“It’s bringing students together in terms of the preparation of goods and what they’re giving out, and then going out together afterwards. Then there’s also the element of service to the community,” Franks said.
He also emphasized the necessity of having service programs such as this available to college students. Specifically, he highlighted the effect one can have on global issues through small acts in the community.
“Often with college we get caught up with our coursework and activities on campus in terms of programs and clubs and sports and all of that,” Franks said. “A program like the midnight run reminds us to extend out beyond ourselves and beyond the confines of the college community to recognize what’s going on in people’s lives and the world and to connect to that.”
Melannie Estrella, a sophomore peace and justice and philosophy double major, participated in the program as a peer minister. Her role included promoting the Midnight Run, preparing the food and distributing it to the local community.
Estrella explained the importance of service programs and how it brings about more awareness on the disparities in the Bronx.
“People are recognizing more and more the impact any one individual can have on the lives of others. The Midnight Run is an opportunity for that, to begin or continue serving others and bringing the change we often learn about in classrooms or online,” Estrella said.
She specifically emphasized the importance the initiative has had on the community and how it has enhanced her outlook on community service.
“Campus Ministry has provided me the support and opportunity to get educated on the needs of others and the world around me in a deeper manner,” Estrella said. “And through events like the midnight run to serve the community in ways I never would have known were needed or perhaps had the chance to before.”
Reidy also highlighted the impact he’s seen on the students who’ve participated and how it’s enriched their personal experience at Manhattan.
“I think that it’s important to recognize that all of these different programs, we kind of see them as small steps on a journey to great change. All of these things, hopefully build the momentum to create you into the person that you are going to be,” Reidy said.
There is also hope that the program will continue to expand and serve the Bronx community through other service programs on campus.
“[We] have a lot of programming, like the local community service on Saturdays, where we address specific immediate needs through service to others. So I’m hoping that that can continue for a while,” Reidy said.
The Midnight Run has had a lasting impact on volunteers involved with CMSA and is open to all students to further their connection with each other and the broader community.
“We designed this as a group, it’s not tied to any specific religious tradition or affiliation,” Franks said. “It’s just a chance to bring students together to interact with and support one another and it’s an open invite to anyone and everyone that’s curious.”