Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 13:15

Assumption College Shares Holiday Spirit

Students, Staff Prepare to Donate Gifts to Worcester’s Less Fortunate Children, Services to Charities

As the holidays approach, Assumption College community members are embracing the spirit of giving through various volunteer efforts in the local community, like cooking Thanksgiving dinner for former inmates, collecting food and gifts for lower-income families, and raising awareness for social causes, such as hunger and homelessness.

On Nov. 22, 10 Assumption students cooked, served and ate Thanksgiving dinner with residents of Dismas Family Farm, a 35-acre residential program in Oakham that assists former inmates with developing vocational skills and re-entering society. The farm’s residents, those recently discharged from jail after serving sentences for various crimes mostly related to substance abuse issues, work toward finding housing and employment.

This is the fifth year Assumption students provided Dismas Farm residents with Thanksgiving dinner, noted Susan Sabelli, clinical coordinator for Undergraduate Field Placements in the College’s Department of Human Services and Rehabilitation Studies.

“Community service, such as cooking for and spending time with Dismas Farm residents, enhances students’ liberal arts education and exposes students to an environment that is inspiring and supportive of civic responsibility and community action,” said Sabelli, a faculty advisor to Assumption’s Human Services Club. “Assumption students gain positive and rewarding experiences through service to those in the greatest of need in the Worcester community.”

STUDENT-ATHLETES’ FOOD DRIVE

Assumption’s athletic teams held a Food Drive at the Senior Day football game earlier this month and collected more than $1,400. The money will go toward the purchase of food and gift cards for turkeys which will be distributed via the 30 Thanksgiving baskets that Assumption’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will donate this year through Pernet Family Health Services. In addition, the students donated a record 1,600 pounds of food to the Worcester County Food Bank for its annual Halloween “Trick-or-Treat” Collection.

“The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee did a great job of engaging their teammates to help in our annual food drive efforts,” said Bethany Ellis, associate director of athletics and recreation. “Not only did the students learn the value of working together as a community in support of a greater cause, but they also make a real impact on those in need.”

HUNGER AND HOMELESSNESS AWARENESS

Other events were held on campus to raise awareness of local hunger and homelessness problems, including an information booth in Hagan Campus Center where campus community members could learn more about homelessness in Worcester and around the world. The film Homeless in Paradise – about four homeless people living in Santa Monica, Calif. – was shown Nov. 19, after which 25 Assumption students shared interviews they recently conducted with homeless individuals at Veterans Inc., a shelter in Worcester.

“The shelter visit made the most profound impression on the students,” said Professor Michael Land, who oversees the College’s Community Service Learning program. “They come away struck not only with how the lives of the clients are different from their own, but also the ways that the clients seem like folks they've known their entire lives. It humanizes homelessness and removes some of the stigma. The clients' stories also remind the students what a thin line separates those with homes and jobs from those who have neither.”

On Nov. 20, approximately 20 students participated in Assumption's 5th annual Sleep-out, held from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. on the Hagan Campus Center lawn. The evening included reflections on and simulations of hunger and homelessness.

“Through these activities, students gain greater awareness of the complexity and the issues that are connected to hunger and homelessness,” said Carleen Roy-Butler, Assumption’s director of the Reach Out Center, the College’s community service organization for students. “We also hope they become more empathetic and realize the inherent dignity of the hungry and homeless in the city. People who are hungry and homeless are still very much marginalized, but hopefully by raising awareness, we can increase students’ understanding of their struggle and the importance of their humanity."

ON-CAMPUS GIFT DRIVES, UNITED WAY CAMPAIGN

Assumption is also holding its annual Holiday Giving Tree, a gift drive benefiting children through the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The College’s Department of Public Safety will conduct its annual “Toys for Tickets” toy collection as well. In addition, Assumption’s United Way Campaign held its annual fund-raiser in late November. United Way dollars are at work every day through day care centers, meal programs, safe and structured activities for children, home health aides, disaster relief, and counseling services. The money raised helps the people most in need who are close to home.

MEDIA CONTACT: Lorraine U. Martinelle Director of Media Relations Assumption College lu.martinelle@assumption.edu @lumartinelle | @AssumptionNews www.assumption.edu