By HOPE RUDZINSKI
As employees of Sodexo Dining Services at Nichols College, Dave Hebert and Harley Biercuk make sure students on The Hill are well fed. They also, however, go beyond the boundaries of Center Road to help people who don’t have a lot. They have big hearts and will drop anything to make time for students and people in need.
Joining them in their quest to give back to the local community throughout the year are Nichols students, faculty, and staff. One activity that gets lots of support from people throughout campus is the annual Thanksgiving food drive for local homeless and people in need.
What started out over a decade ago as a small food drive that collected non-perishables to give to families in need, has grown increasingly popular and important as word got around about it.
“Sodexo first held this annual food drive about 15 years ago,” said Biercuk, unit controller for Sodexo at Nichols College. “Food was donated to the Worcester County Food Bank, but now we get so many more donations that we start delivering Thanksgiving early to other locations.
“With the help of Nichols students, faculty, and staff, we can accomplish much more,” he added.
Hebert, who is director of Sodexo Dining Services at Nichols College, not only provides food for people in need through Nichols but also through volunteering his own time by cooking, serving, and delivering food to the homeless in Webster through local non-profit charity Blessed Backpack Brigade’s (BBB) Fellowship Meals program.
“I’ve been delivering and serving meals with the help of the Nichols community for the local homeless and families in need,” said Hebert, who lives in New Haven, Conn. “I usually deliver them to the American Legion in Webster the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. Month after month, we have a group to up to 80 people to feed, however, for Thanksgiving we get about 250 people.”
And on Wednesday, Nov. 14, Nichols faculty and staff as well as students from the Nichols Men of Distinction and Emerging Leaders Program were at the American Legion, cooking, slicing, stirring, and serving full Thanksgiving meals to those 250 people. Executive Vice President Mike Stanton and Vice President of Enrollment Bill Boffi were slicing turkeys in the Legion’s kitchen. Meanwhile, Professor Luanne Westerling and Director of Student Involvement Beth Gionfriddo were bringing out platters of the turkey, potatoes, vegetables, and stuffing to the serving stations. Students were ready with their large spoons to plate the delicious, hot meals for their guests.
Before people ate, though, they heard Dudley Selectman Paul Joseph offer a few words of “thanks.” His wife, Lauri Joseph, BBB co-founder, also spoke with guests and made sure everything ran smoothly at the dinner.
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 unit is in Webster, and almost all the supplies there were destroyed by flood water related to the August tornado that tore through parts of Dudley and Webster. BBB relies 100 percent on donations and volunteers.
- Read about how the Nichols community helped the Blessed Backpack Brigade restock its supplies after the tornado.
The annual Sodexo at Nichols Thanksgiving Food Drive collected non-perishable food from Nov. 5 to 14. When it comes to preparing hot meals for the homeless, however, more food—and variety—is required.
“We need 400-to-500 pounds of food to meet our goals,” Biercuk said.
The Nichols community collected and donated almost 500 pounds of food last week.
It’s not only once a year that Nichols community members help those less fortunate. Students, staff, and faculty donate their time, supplies, and food on two Wednesday a month (soon, it will be instead two Thursdays a month).
“This year we were really looking for anyone to help out with serving meals,” said Biercuk. “It’s crucial to give back, because there are a lot of less-fortunate, depressed people going through tough times out there.
Added Hebert: “We operate off donations and have tons of people helping us prepare the foods and bring them to the homeless. Nichols also donates a lot to the canned food drive. Lauri Joseph, of the Blessed Backpack Brigade, also helps me run meals to the homeless.”
GIFTS SOUGHT FOR LOCAL CHILDREN
Nichols College’s Men of Distinction has teamed up with Adjunct Professor Lesa Patrock, who is also a teacher at Dudley Middle School, and YOU Inc. to help find sponsors and gift-wrappers for local under-privileged children, as part of YOU Inc.’s annual Adopt-A-Child program. Most of these children have been taken from their homes for numerous reasons (financial, abuse, parental drug usage, etc.), and don’t spend the holidays with their families.
YOU Inc. is a private, nonprofit child welfare and behavioral health agency serving troubled and at-risk children, adolescents and families in the Worcester county area. It holds an event each year at Dudley Middle School to find sponsors for these children, who each receive three gifts of their choice.
In the past, members of the Nichols women’s ice hockey and basketball teams have wrapped presents.
This year, volunteers will be needed Thursday, Dec. 6, from 3 to 6 p.m., to help wrap about 1,000 gifts at Dudley Middle School. Nichols College’s Office of Human Resources has a list of children and their gift choices. Please see Human Resources Director Darcy Vangel or Human Resources Specialist Brenda Chase to sponsor a child and sign up to wrap gifts.
Unwrapped gifts must be dropped off by Nov. 30 in the Nichols College Office of Human Resources, upstairs in Conrad Hall.
Hope Rudzinski is a junior English major and communications minor, and a public relations assistant in the Nichols College Office of Marketing and Communications.
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Nichols College students, faculty, and staff donated 450 pounds of food and served local residents in need full #Thanksgiving meals (turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, cranberry sauce, and apple and pumpkin pies!) Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the American Legion in Webster, Mass. The fellowship meal was served on behalf of the Dudley-based Blessed Backpack Brigade, which lost all of its supplies to help those in need, in the August tornado that ripped through the area. Nichols community members have been helping the organization for the past few years. #HappyThanksgiving #BisonPride 💚
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On #VeteransDay, @Nichols_College students held a fundraiser for #veterans at Point Breeze in @WebsterMass. They raised about $500 and put on a fantastic event to honor veterans. #salute – Post by Kyle McShane ’21, a student in Professor @jeangbeaupre’s #SocialMedia class.