Thanksgiving brings ample volunteer opportunities to the community

By Lelia Thatcher, Staff Writer

Each year the week before Thanksgiving, the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign against Hunger and Homelessness team up to sponsor National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. High schools, colleges, faith-based groups and community groups of all sorts can register and participate.

EWU kicked off National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week on Nov. 14 with the “Seeking Human Kindness” event. It was a free event for university students and community members to get together and share poems, stories and ideas surrounding hunger, homelessness and poverty in the community.

Hilary Beardslee, senior leader of the EWU Hunger and Homelessness Outreach Team, said, “Raising awareness is where you begin so that’s our main focus and we’re hoping that through raising awareness it enables and encourages students to go out and act.”

Nov. 15 featured a documentary film in the JFK Auditorium titled “These Storied Streets.” The film shared real stories of homeless people across America and the struggle they face every day to survive.

The event on Nov. 16 was held at the PUB and titled “Smile Campaign.” The goal was to bring attention to the fact that people often dehumanize homeless people by locking their car door, avoiding eye contact, crossing the street to avoid them and so on. This event was focused on encouraging people to smile and say hello to homeless people because they are human beings too.

Beardslee said she was raised in the Seattle area and grew up with the mindset she said many people share: All homeless people are lazy alcoholics or drug addicts and any money given to them will go straight to those kinds of things. She said she hopes that other people, like herself, will realize these stereotypes are often false. Homeless people are still human beings and deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect.

The Veterans Resource Center and the EWU Hunger and Homelessness Outreach Team partnered up for the event on Nov. 17: “Homelessness is not…” Their goal was to de-stigmatize homelessness and provide resources to students on campus.

Nov. 18 will be “Making Meals Stretch,” held at PUB 212 from 9 a.m. to noon. The EWU Hunger and Homelessness Outreach Team created a cookbook containing five days worth of food breakfast, lunch and dinner out of ingredients that can be bought for $20. They will also be handing out a general resource guide with contact information for local food banks, shelters and various emergency services in Spokane County.

Nov. 19 will be “What Can You Do?” at 115 Showalter Hall from 1-2 p.m. Local representatives from nonprofits in Spokane will be discussing ways students can get involved and make a change in their own community.

Nov. 20 will be “Food For Thought” at the House of Charity in Spokane from 4-7 p.m. EWU is partnering with Gonzaga University to provide students with the opportunity to sit down, share a meal and engage with people in Spokane who are currently struggling with homelessness and hunger. Only 20 spots are available for EWU students.

Nov. 21 will be “Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Service Project Day.” After spending the week teaching students about issues pertaining to hunger and homelessness, the EWU Hunger and Homelessness Outreach Team is challenging students to get out in the community and make a change. Potential service partners and project ideas will be posted to EagleSync.

Additional ways to volunteer this holiday season include Tom’s Turkey Drive, the largest turkey drive in the Inland Northwest, feeding approximately 11,000 families every year. Tom’s Turkey Drive Bags will be sold at Rosauers on Nov. 21 and Nov. 22 and donations can be made online at any time. Anyone interested in volunteering can call (509) 252-6267.

There are also many volunteer opportunities before, during and after each Feed Cheney event; they have been serving dinner to community members the last Monday of every month for over five years. Anyone interested can email [email protected]m.