Inside the basement, folks worked diligently all day long making Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings to feed about 50 people that are older and live nearby in the lower income dwellings. The meals are a welcome sight and are a blessing to those that receive them from the volunteers from the school. The holidays are not the only time that this charitable work occurs. Volunteers help feed the needy twice a week all year long in a project founded in 2001.
The project, started by Robert Egger is called the Campus Kitchens Project (CKP) and it uses resources that are both available and left over. They use the campus kitchens, the leftover food and volunteer students to help prepare and feed the hungry. The program has taken hold and spread to 28 colleges and 3 high schools.
The students are in a unique situation where they are able to develop a relationship with the seniors and sometimes kids that they are serving. These students actually go directly to the home and drop off the meals unlike some that drop off meals to an agency or a homeless shelter. About one third of the meals within the network of kitchens are going to seniors and others are children. Each kitchen will develop its own network of clients depending upon the needs of the area.
The program has had the additional benefit of bringing together the different cultures and age groups to share and learn from one another. One of the students revealed that he had always looked upon those down on their luck with a certain pre-defined opinion because of their shabby appearance. He was fortunate to discover that what was on the outside was not the real person on the inside and has, like many of the volunteers, been able to gain insight and wisdom from their elders.
The relationship between the clients and the student volunteers has served to not only feed the bodies of the seniors, but also to bring them back into mainstream from places where they are sometimes isolated. The students have found that many of them share interests and can learn from the lives and stories of the elderly.
The collaboration between client and the students began when the volunteers realized that the foods being served were not the favorites of their clients. The clients volunteered to help them learn to cook things like sweet potatoes, greens and other local fare that they enjoyed. This turned into a win-win situation as the student volunteers provided a real service to the locals and the clients helped teach them to cook and taught them much about life as well.