Focusing on the “Giving” this Holiday
Since 1994, members of WPI’s Lambda Chi Alpha chapter have spent the Saturday before Thanksgiving collecting food for Friendly House, a family assistance agency in Worcester. The work has had a real impact: over the past 26 years, nearly 2.5 million pounds of food has been collected and donated.
“Every year, we drop off 10,000 empty grocery bags to homes near WPI,” said Brandon Rein, Lambda Chi Alpha philanthropy chair. “And every year, we think maybe we will get a few bags filled. But without fail, when we drive around to pick them up, we are amazed by the generosity of our neighbors.”
This year’s goal was ambitious: 300,000 pounds of non-perishable items—which they met. If that number seems staggering, so is the need: 500 Friendly House families have signed up to receive the donations.
“We have come to rely on WPI and Lambda Chi Alpha for their donations,” said Michael Moreshead, assistant to the executive director at Friendly House. “As one of our longest-running supporters, they continue to meet our growing needs and this year was no exception.”
According to the USDA, more than 38 million Americans, including 12 million children, are food insecure. In Worcester County, the number of people seeking food assistance is higher than pre-pandemic rates and may increase in coming months with both enhanced federal unemployment benefits and expanded child tax credits set to expire.
Jean McMurray, Executive Director of the Worcester County Food Bank, warns, “We are also dealing with higher food prices and heating fuel costs. Some families will have to make difficult decisions this winter on how to stretch their funds.”
Another organization asking for help this holiday is Thrive Support & Advocacy, which operates a food pantry on Grove Street, just minutes away from the WPI campus. Thrive assists individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“Many of our clients have experienced job losses, the closure of day rehabilitation programs, social isolation, and even homelessness,” says Stacey Forrest, Chief Operating Officer at Thrive. “This year, we have over sixty families requesting aid, which is more than double previous numbers.”
When members of the Theta Chi Fraternity chapter—as well as students from ACCESS (Awareness, Community, Collaboration, Empowerment, Support, and Success), a disability advocacy group—learned about this need, they acted quickly. In less than a week, they set up a donation table in the WPI Campus Center and collected enough food and funds to provide a “Thanksgiving in a Box” to nearly half of the Thrive families requesting help.
“With very little notice, our volunteers and friends at WPI really stepped up to help us meet the needs of our families,” says Forrest. “We consider ourselves so fortunate to be rooted in a community that cares for its neighbors.”
“We are so grateful to WPI students, faculty, and staff who made contributions,” said Bryan Lima, Theta Chi Epsilon Chapter president. “It’s been great to be able to work alongside other student organizations to give back this holiday season.”
Theta Chi believes its support of Thrive could be the beginning of another Thanksgiving tradition at WPI, similar to Lambda Chi Alpha’s support of Friendly House. Both are traditions that will continue to result in gratitude for both the givers and the receivers.