Hundreds of members of the Willimantic community visited Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 26 for the eighth annual Day of Giving. Despite the day’s inclement weather, Eastern’s Hurley Hall bustled as usual, serving up hot Thanksgiving meals to community members who otherwise may not have had one.
Eastern faculty, staff, alumni and students volunteered to help serve the food, assisting the staff of Chartwells, Eastern’s food services contractor. Food and other services were donated by Chartwells and its vendors, as well as by the ECSU Foundation, Inc.
“This is a great tribute to the community,” said Harry Cobb, a resident of Willimantic and patron of the event. “A lot of people are not able to have their own thanksgiving dinner, let alone a buffet style meal like the one today.”
Originally thought up by alumnus Jason Budahazy ’09 in 2007, the Day of Giving has become a fixture in Willimantic during the holiday season. “It has been a dependable, steady and generous tradition at Eastern,” said President Elsa Núñez.
Sponsored by the Center for Community Engagement, the Day of Giving occurs in collaboration with the Covenant Soup Kitchen and other social service agencies in Willimantic, which help to promote and provide transportation to Eastern.
“I’m new to Willimantic. This is incredible. It says a lot about this university and the students,” said Shawn Shambley, a Willimantic resident from New Orleans, LA. “The spread is delicious and free! Just awesome and humbling.
“This is so nice of the college to offer to the community,” said Sharon Wilson, a Willimantic resident. “The food is wonderful and the people are great. This is perfect for people who don’t have families or money to make a Thanksgiving dinner.”
In addition to the dinner, served to more than 400 residents, Eastern students also coordinated a food drive that yielded more than 3,000 canned goods that were donated to the local soup kitchen and food pantries. Food pantry officials indicated those food items will last them into the summer months.