By HOPE RUDZINSKI
DUDLEY—The EF-1 tornado that tore through Dudley and downtown Webster August 4, 2018, impacted many businesses, even causing the demolition of a historic block of buildings. But people, too, suffered devastating loss from the storm. One organization that has spent the past two years helping local homeless and low-income individuals and families, experienced significant damage.
Local non-profit charity Blessed Backpack Brigade (BBB), located at 42 Airport Road, helps the homeless, the elderly, the unemployed, and impoverished get back on their feet by providing them with food and basic supplies. Its warehouse storage units in Webster and almost all the supplies there were destroyed by flood water. BBB relies 100 percent on donations and volunteers.
In the days following the tornado, Nichols College employees collected supplies to donate to BBB. And, on Sept. 19, student members of the Nichols Social Programing Board (SPB) stepped in to help.
The SPB is responsible for holding events that get students engaged and involved on and off campus. In the case of the tornado victims, SPB members felt it was crucial to help the local community.
“The town of Webster always helps the students here at Nichols College, so just being able to help them after they lost almost everything feels good,” said Gretchen Carlson, a junior hospitality management major from Pascoag, R.I. “We have worked with the Blessed Backpack Brigade before for a class last year, so just lending a hand to help them at this time was very important to us.”
At last month’s event, the SPB invited students to make gift bags, which they filled with socks, snacks, and first aid kits. The bags were then delivered for the Blessed Backpack Brigade at the Webster-Dudley Food Share pantry at 4 Church St., Webster. From there, the bags were distributed to people in need.
“This is a way we can get Nichols students involved in a good cause and to also show them the importance of helping others,” said Mallory Russell, a sophomore hospitality management major from Millinocket, Maine. “It can be very rewarding, knowing you’re helping people who need not only resources but also support.”
Students shared their eagerness to help the local community.
“I want to see more events like this on campus,” said Chris Chambers, a junior criminal justice management major from Windsor, Conn. “Doing something great for people who are less fortunate, and for an impactful organization, just makes you feel good. I think it would make more people get involved with the Social Programming Board and be inspired to have more events like this on campus.”
The Blessed Backpack Brigade accepts donations in the lobby of the Dudley Police Station at 71 West Main St. For more information, call Lauri Joseph at (774) 230-8988.
Hope Rudzinski is a junior English major and communications minor, and a public relations assistant in the Nichols College Office of Marketing and Communications.