3 ways you can give back this Thanksgiving

It's the season of giving!

By Morgan Wahler | November 21, 2017 6:57pm

If you don't want to hand out food, you can do behind the scenes work and wash dishes or welcome people at the door!
by Julia Cramer / The Beacon

Thanksgiving might seem all about getting Grandma’s pumpkin pie, arguing with family and spending time with friends. But what if you made this Thanksgiving all about giving?

If you’re interested in giving this Thanksgiving, the Moreau Center has helpful suggestions about where you can give back to your community.

“We want to work out what social justice, community, solidarity, reflection, the core values mean through service,” Tshombé Brown, program manager for community partnerships at the Moreau Center, said. 

This Thanksgiving season, consider visiting the Ronald McDonald House to serve meals, planting trees or helping the homeless at Saint André Bessette.

The Campus Volunteer Coordinators act as liaisons between their own different organizations and the Moreau Center. Brown also coordinates work-study programs for non-profit or social-based for-profit organizations and organizations with service-based missions that coincide with a student’s academic track.

Brown’s hope is for service opportunities to create structures that bring forth the abilities in students so that an experience is one that awakens the soul.

Here are a few of many opportunities the Moreau Center has to offer for you to participate in for this Thanksgiving weekend and in the next few weeks.

Serving hot meals to the homeless community at St. Andre Bessette in downtown Portland is a great way to volunteer.
by Julia Cramer / The Beacon

Volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House

A popular Thanksgiving service opportunity is cooking and serving dinner to those who need it. Anita Oman, Service and Justice Coordinator for Lund Family Hall, offers students this opportunity at The Ronald McDonald House.

“The Ronald McDonald House is a place for families and children with chronic illness to stay free of charge,” Oman said. “Even though these families are going through some really hard times, they’re all still really positive.”

Every Thanksgiving, the East and West Ronald McDonald Houses in Portland take volunteers to cook, serve and eat meals with the guests.

Volunteers will either pay for the ingredients or have the meal sponsored by donors. The House has a fully-stocked kitchen and pantry and a large kitchen capable of cooking multiple meals simultaneously. They will then cook the meal and eat with the families. 

“We are all in community with each other, cooking and eating together,” Oman said. “It’s like when you have a family member who is sick and you take them food.”

This year, Oman is looking for students to volunteer. Sophomore Tristan Martin has volunteered at The Ronald McDonald House with UP’s Circle K International, a club that focuses on community service. 

“A handful of us went to the House and made fried rice and did karaoke with the people there,” Martin said. “They were happy to see laughter and people singing — it’s a big change from a hospital setting.”

Oman and Martin are currently planning to take a group of UP students to the Ronald McDonald House on Thanksgiving and another group with the Circle K International Club the following week. 

If you are staying on campus for Thanksgiving and want to help out and volunteer, contact Oman at oman20@up.edu or Martin at martin20@up.edu.  

Handing out snacks and hot meals to the homeless community at St. Andre Bessete in downtown Portland are a great way to volunteer.
by Julia Cramer / The Beacon

Serve meals to the homeless

Saint André Bessette Catholic Church in downtown Portland aims to help the homeless through giving back to those who experience homelessness and poverty. Though it is closed on Thanksgiving, the church is looking for volunteers on all other days of the week. Leah Carr is the Community Volunteer Coordinator for St. André Bessette and has volunteered since 2016. 

“They want to help the community, especially those who are marginalized and overlooked in society,” Carr said. “They want to be in companionship with them and make them feel less alone.”

St. André Bessette accepts volunteers each day to help set up and perform its food services, art programs, clothing drives, foot care and other hospitality services.

“They have morning and evening hospitality,” Carr said. “We serve them breakfast and also give hygiene items: anything from toiletries to scarves, gloves and bedding. We also offer an art room downstairs.”

Carr, from Hawaii, recalled meeting a guest while volunteering who used to live in Hawaii, too. They bonded over a mutual knowledge of hula.

“She just stood up and broke out into one of the popular hula songs,” Carr said fondly. “She just started singing and dancing...In service, we aren’t giving people their dignity, that is already there,” Brown said. “We are just awakening what is already present in people.”

To learn more about these Thanksgiving volunteering opportunities and the many more offered by the Moreau Center, visit the website or stop by the office in St. Mary’s Lounge.

Become a Friend of Trees!

If you’re family has plans for Thanksgiving, you can still give back by participating in planting trees with Friends of Trees! Every Saturday morning at 7 a.m., volunteers gather to help the environment by planting trees in the Portland community. There will be no tree planting this weekend, but if you still want to help out in this season of giving, the next Friends of Trees event will take place on Dec. 2.

“It’s cool to see people work together about something they’re all passionate about,” said senior Kathleen Ronson, a volunteer since 2015. 

After an initial exposure to Friends of Trees at the service plunge and a revisit to the organization during her junior year, Ronson now consistently volunteers as a crew leader. 

Ronson has participated in planting and pruning trees, native plants and shrubbery.

The Community Volunteer Coordinator, the Moreau Center’s liaison for Friends of Trees, is senior Amanda Adams, and she has planted with the organization since before her freshman year. 

“You get a great sense of community,” Adams said. “You get dirty, you get to meet people.”

Adams is involved in the organization by training UP students to be crew leaders. Crew leaders must attend a minimum of four plantings per season. 

Friends of Trees also works on Green Space Projects, which remove invasive plant species, such as ivy, from parks and community spaces. 

If you are interested in Friends of Trees or any of these other organizations, contact Adams at CVC.FoT@up.edu.