While some Penn State students and staff prepared for a break to give thanks with their families over a nice meal, others have been working to make sure everyone can do the same this year.
Penn State’s Office of Student Leadership and Involvement hosted its annual Thanksgiving Basket Drive late last week, in collaboration with community partners.
Various Penn State departments and student groups dropped off baskets in the HUB-Robeson Center, full of goods to provide a Thanksgiving dinner to families who would not be able to afford one.
SLI then collected the baskets and distributed them to eight community partner organizations across State College, Philipsburg and Bellefonte.
The partnered organizations are the AIDS Resource Alliance, Bellefonte Area School District, Park Forest Preschool, Centre Safe, Central Pennsylvania Community Action, Interfaith Human Services, Youth Service Bureau and Pregnancy Resource Clinic.
Yana Harris, program coordinator with SLI, said the department has been doing this for years.
“We reach out to some of those partners… and the campus does all the work and brings the baskets,” Harris said. “Our part is connecting with the community partners, setting up the logistics and the delivery part.”
Harris emphasized the volunteer efforts that allow the basket drive to happen.
“We accept volunteers from everything from creating the baskets, to sitting in the room [with the baskets], to delivering the baskets,” Harris said. “And then when we don’t have volunteers, the [SLI] staff fills in.”
Emily Purinton, the head of service for her sorority, Sigma Alpha, said she saw a flier for the basket drive while working at the HUB and thought it would be a “cool opportunity.”
“I think at the holidays, it’s important to recognize that it’s not just ourselves that we need to consider and that we need to come together to help other people,” Purinton (sophomore-animal science) said. “If we’re having family together… we want other people to have that, too.”
Tarrell Hoffman works within SLI and was helping staff the room where baskets were being dropped.
“It’s something that gives back to the Centre County community from the Penn State community, because they do a lot for us,” Hoffman said. “It’s great to give back to them — especially those in need.”
Jean Pierce delivered a basket on behalf of the Huck Institute of Life Sciences Graduate Office.
Pierce said the office has participated in this event before, with everyone contributing to build the basket.
“It’s just nice to be able to give back and know that we’re helping people who really need it, and we are able to give from our abundance to meet their needs,” Pierce said. “It’s a great mission, so we’re just happy to be part of it.”
Harris said she cannot “take credit for too much” of the drive.
“It’s a group effort, and it’s something people really like to do — I’m just a collaborator,” Harris said. “I think people really get joy out of being able to help other people, especially around the holiday time.”
Harris also said the opportunities to give back to the community is personally “rewarding” for her.
“The fact that I get to do something that I like and am passionate about personally and push it into my work — who doesn't want to do that?” Harris said. “I know what it means to be a part of a family that may not have — I’ve been in that position. So knowing that people will always come together to make sure a family can still enjoy a hot meal and a reason to gather feels good.”
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