Helping others give thanks — Students do their part this Thanksgiving to give back to the community

With the holiday season just around the corner, many of us have taken up the art of hint-dropping – covertly mentioning to our loved ones the gifts we most desire. Some student and local organizations, however, are using the holidays as an opportunity to give back to their community.

Uni?n Latina (UL), with the help of Sodexho, is sponsoring a Thanksgiving food drive. According to Joanna Holgu?n, vice president of UL, Eta Yager, assistant vice president of resource development for the United Way of Greater Mercer County, contacted the organization to see if it would be interested in participating in its food drive. The food collected by the United Way would then be used to prepare packages of Thanksgiving dinners for families in need in Mercer county.

“We decided to hold (the food drive) because we, as an organization, want to get more involved in the community,” Holgu?n said. “Since hunger and homelessness are the two biggest problems in Mercer County, the food drive would be a great way to do that.”

UL Members made banners to publicize the event and boxes in which to collect donations. Holgu?n said the organization has been happy with the campus response to the drive.

“We have been getting a lot of food from the campus,” she said. “The boxes in the student center and the C-Store fill up daily and we are very grateful.”

In addition to student help, Sodexho has also gotten involved by donating food and setting up the collection can in the C-Store.

Another group doing its part to help the community is the Asian American Assocation (AAA). The organization is sponsoring its annual Baking for Humanity event on Nov. 21 from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Cromwell Main Lounge. AAA Members will be making cookies, cakes and brownies, as well as accepting baked goods donations. All the food will go to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen’s (TASK) Thanksgiving meal.

Every year TASK serves a traditional Thanksgiving meal to approximately 500 area residents from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The meal, which has been served at TASK for over 16 years, is sponsored by the Toll Gate Grammar School in Pennington. The school provides 75 cooked turkeys and all the fixings needed for the meal. The children of the school also bake sweet potato pies, which are served with dessert.

Unlike daily meals, which are served cafeteria style, the Thanksgiving meal is served to each patron’s seat, with the volunteers acting as wait staff.

There are about 100 of these volunteers, who work in three shifts. This year’s roster of volunteers is already full.

Each person who visits the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving Day is served a hot meal and given another to take home for later in the day. Since the kitchen serves one meal on Thanksgiving instead of two, patrons are given the take-out meal, as well as a lunch bag to-go and a candy bag.

“We only serve one meal on Thanksgiving in order for our staff to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families,” Cathy Ann Vandegrift, associate director, said.

The staff of the kitchen put a little more effort into the Thanksgiving meal as a way of reaching out to the patrons.

“We try to make this day special for our patrons by providing a circulating fruit cart with fresh oranges, apples and bananas,” Vandegrift said. “And (we provide) a cart with coffee, tea and hot chocolate.”

According to the soup kitchen’s Web site, “TASK is a private, non-sectarian, charitable organization that depends almost entirely on the help of dedicated volunteers and generous financial support from individuals, churches, local businesses and community organizations.”

By giving back to the community, students can better understand the needs of those less fortunate in the area, according to Holgu?n.

“They can feel closer to the community of Mercer County even though it may not be their permanent community,” Holgu?n said.