Several weeks before the world’s eyes descended upon our nation’s capitol, students from SJC Long Island and SJC Brooklyn traveled to Washington, D.C., for this year’s alternative winter break (AWB).
While most college students trumped up the importance of hibernation during their mid-winter recesses, more than 20 volunteers from both campuses trekked across state lines to collaborate with a group called Martha’s Table. An organization serving needy communities in D.C., Martha’s Table addresses emerging needs with food and clothing programs, and increasing access to quality education programs, healthy food, and family support.
— St. Joseph’s College (@SJCNY) January 24, 2017
“We stayed in downtown D.C. and witnessed the recent increases in homelessness,” Director of Campus Ministry Pat Tracy said. “At Martha’s Table we prepped 40 gallons of soup each day.”
The District of Columbia suffers from one of the worst poverty rates in the country. About 18 percent of the population falls within the nation’s poverty guidelines. (Federal poverty levels are used to determine a person or family’s eligibility for certain programs and benefits. The federal poverty levels used by the marketplace for 2016 were $11,880 for individuals, or $16,020 for a family of two.)
“We had the opportunity to prepare and cook food that would then be delivered, as well as sort through donations that would be sold in the store” SJC Brooklyn student Mary Edward said.
SJC’s alternative winter break trip is one of the College’s largest community service projects. The destinations of previous alternative winter and spring break trips include Oklahoma, Colorado, South Carolina and New Jersey.
“This trip was unlike any other service-based kitchen I had worked in in the past,” said SJC Long Island senior Jase Panebianco. “In previous kitchens that I served in for the less fortunate, there was always the air that we were helping people who needed our help and that was the attitude of the kitchen. With Martha’s Kitchen, this air was not present, instead the employees treated their environment as if they were serving customers, such as any other professional kitchen.”
“For me, the trip was significant because it allowed me to see our nations capital on a macro and micro level,” said Brian Gully, a senior at SJC Long Island. “Macro aspects involved us visiting things like the Lincoln Memorial and touring the capital building. Micro aspects involved us working with an organization that assists struggling citizens within the city, many of which we were able to interact with personally.”
“I learned about myself, the history of our nation and social issues facing our communities — and what we can do in our lives to make an impact.” said Joey Caggiano of SJC Long Island.
“To some, working in a thrift store and soup kitchen may seem like a small movement, but we provided clothing and food, and made living life better for real people,” said SJC Long Island’s Meinka Hora.