A month into their organizational life, the Graduate Veterans Association (GVA) has already started to coordinate community-service initiatives.
The GVA is running a food drive to support the Claremont Soup Kitchen, which is located only a few exits south of Hanover on Interstate 91. With the hope of bolstering the Kitchen’s low supply, the group has worked with MALS Departmental Representative, Keely Badger, to get the word out to the graduate community. The GVA is taking food and household items to Claremont once a week, bringing the Kitchen donations made by Dartmouth students. The groups are now reaching out to all of the graduate departments.
“It’s an easy way to make a big difference in someone’s life,” says the GVA’s President, Ron Bucca. “And it’s right in Dartmouth’s backyard.”
Claremont, New Hampshire, was once a manufacturing town, but as the industry in the area declined, the town’s economic composition changed. The Kitchen opened up in 1983, started by Jan Bunnell and an early group of volunteers. Over 25 years later, Jan’s still there.
When you meet Jan, you know that she truly cares about helping people. “We have a lot of homelessness in Claremont,” she says. “People couch-cruise, going house to house every week or so. It’s not that they want to live this way – trust me they don’t want to live like that.”
The Kitchen runs four different programs: an evening meal, a food pantry to provide groceries to help during the lean times, home delivery for housebound seniors, and a BackPack program, which is designed to make sure children and teens have enough food to eat over the weekend. But as government grants and private donations fall off sharply, the Kitchen is finding it tough to meet the growing need.
“When I started here two years ago, these stacks went to the ceiling,” says David Lacoy, a Kitchen volunteer. We’re in the basement of a building on Central Street in Claremont – the ceilings are about eight feet high. Now the stacks of donations rise to about the knee.
In response, the GVA and GSC have organized a drive to help the Kitchen in their mission to help the people of Claremont, and they’re calling on all graduate students to continue to donate through the spring. Right now, there is a box for donations located in the MALS office on the ground floor in Wentworth Hall. As other departmental representatives are notified, look for boxes in other spaces – until then, the box in Wentworth is open to all. The Soup Kitchen accepts all kinds of food, basic kitchen appliances and utensils, clothing, and furniture. While all donations are welcome, items like peanut butter, cereal, fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy sources of protein are especially appreciated. If you’d like to donate any fresh, time-sensitive items, you can contact GVA members Ron Bucca or Mike Rodriguez.
The GVA and the GSC thanks the Dartmouth students who have already contributed and is appreciative of whatever students can give in the future. With the summer months coming up, children who rely heavily on school lunches will need other options. Jan and the staff of the Kitchen asked that we say thanks for them, too.
By Zachary Williams