Cal U hosts ‘Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week’


Jeff Helsel

Joey Kelly, community engagement manager, Rise Against Hunger, Pittsburgh, with Cal U students Maria Dovshek and Bailey Westfall, preparing a box for meal packages that will be sent to international locations. Cal U volunteers aimed to create 10, 000 packages at the event in the Natali Student Center, Nov. 17, 2021

Katie Lowery, Contributor

California University of Pennsylvania is raising awareness of hunger and homelessness in the community by hosting several events from Nov. 15 to Nov. 19, 2021. These events will be centered around the struggles, stigmas, and stereotypes homeless people face.

The week will begin with Cal U Catholics hosting an event from where students and volunteers will make plastic sleeping mats among other activities, according to Meghan Larsen-Reidy, a college campus minister for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

“There will be a few service projects happening,” Larsen-Reidy said. “We will be making yarn out of plastic bags to create waterproof mats to give the homeless population. That way, they can keep the mats under their sleeping bags, so they don’t get wet.”

Cal U Catholics will also be packaging around 200 homelessness care kits, which will include socks, nail clippers, snacks, and encouraging notes, according to Larsen-Reidy.

“We are also making care kits for the Catholic Worker in Wheeling,” Larsen-Reidy said. “They serve the homeless population there.”

In addition to making mats and care kits, Larsen-Reidy said volunteers will also create bookmarks for low-income elementary schools in the area.

“Caring for the poor is a key part of Catholicism,” Larsen-Reidy said. “This seemed like an easy way to live out our values by helping others.”

All students are welcome to join the Cal U Catholics in Natali Student Center room 206 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for these activities, Larsen-Reidy said.

Another event taking place on Monday is Beverly’s Birthday Project. Beverly’s Birthday Project is a service project that aims to give happy birthdays to children in the community who are experiencing homelessness, according to Maria Dovshek, a Communication Studies major and Intern for the Cal U Cupboard.

“There are two ways students can help, they can volunteer at the event on Monday Nov. 15 in the Vulcan Theater from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. where we will be packing birthdays in a bag,” Dovshek said. “Another way is by donating birthday supplies that can be donated for the bags.”

Cake mixes, frosting, candles, tablecloths, paper plates, forks, cups, napkins, banners, party hats, and noise makers are suggested donations according to Dovshek.

On Wednesday, there will be a seminar focusing on couponing in Natali Energy Zone and Rise Against Hunger will begin in the Natali Student Center 6 to 8 p.m., according to Dovshek.

“There will be information sessions such as tips on couponing and information on food stamps,” Dovshek said. “There will be numerous volunteer opportunities, one that I want to point out is Rise Against Hunger which will be held on Wednesday in the performance center where we will be packing over 10,000 meals that will be donated.”

Jamie Herr, a Cal U graphic design major, said it is important to have events like this because you never know who needs help.

“I didn’t know about these events until recently, but I am interested in attending,” Herr said. “I have been part of the foster care system, so I know how important events like these are. While I’ve been lucky enough to never need assistance, it is important students are aware of the available resources. You never know who needs help.”

If these events seem interesting, there is a full list of Hunger and Homelessness Week events that can be found on the Cal U Volunteers Instagram page, @CalUVolunteers.