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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Waltham Group sponsors Halloween for the Hungry

Published: November 2, 2012
Section: Features

While college-aged students may be too old to trick-or-treat on Halloween, Brandeis students defy this idea. For the past 26 years, the Waltham Group’s Hunger and Homelessness program has offered a special Halloween opportunity for the Brandeis community. This year’s event collected more than 4,100 items of nonperishable food.

Each year, during the weeks preceding Oct. 31, the Hunger and Homelessness Program posts flyers around Waltham and surrounding areas, incentivizing residents to buy or gather non-perishable foods. On the night of Halloween, the members (using the BranVan), drive volunteers to local homes to knock on doors and pick up canned goods. That is, they trick-or-treat.

The Police Departments and the families who have compiled non-perishables are notified prior to Halloween. This way, the process runs both efficiently and without confusion.

The program works to battle hunger and homelessness in the local community under the leadership of Liz Stoker, Dianna Wang and Nate Shammay. Through various volunteer opportunities, the club works persistently to include members of the Brandeis community in the fight to alleviate hunger and homelessness. In addition to the Halloween for the Hungry initiative, other programs include: Brandeis Be Our Guest, the Spring Sock Drive and the Waltham Community Garden Project.

Brandeis Be Our Guest gives students the option to donate their unused guest meals. In turn, Aramark, one of Hunger and Homelessness’ partners, donates these meals to various local soup kitchens. Students may then volunteer to deliver and serve the food to the soup kitchens and spend time with the recipients.

Through the Spring Sock Drive, students ask Waltham residents for socks and gently worn clothing to be donated to Boston’s Health Care for the Homeless Program.

The Waltham Community Garden Project allows students to help the Waltham Community Day Center with their garden—tasks vary depending on the season.

In addition to the annual events, “we have lots of little one-time things,” Stoker said, including relief events for Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and Japan after the 2011 tsunami. The proceeds were sent to the Red Cross.

Providing volunteer effort opportunities to the Brandeis student body helps Hunger and Homelessness gather support and promote their cause. While working to combat hunger and homelessness is always necessary, it becomes especially important as the winter months approach, for obvious reasons. The current economic turbulence and recent changes in legislation regarding shelter qualification further the need for volunteers.

As a result of the new Massachusetts shelter regulations focusing on permanent housing, access to shelters has become increasingly difficult for those in need. At the end of September, “74 percent of families seeking shelter were denied [of emergency shelter],” according to a column by Yvonne Abraham in the Boston Globe.

Although the program has generally run smoothly for the past 26 years, Stoker notes one minor glitch. On Halloween night in recent years, not every household that has signed up has been knocked on. This hiccup, however, was easily remedied. The club leaders made a second round of pick ups, ensuring that all the food was picked up.

This fall, Hunger and Homelessness has been successful in recruiting Brandeis volunteers to participate in Halloween for the Hungry. “We could always use a few more [volunteers], but we have lots of help from campus groups,” including Greek organizations, Stoker said.

Students not affiliated with specific campus clubs have also been eager to volunteer.
Anyone and everyone is welcome to sign up.

“Doing Halloween for the Hungry is a great way to get [help combat] homelessness, meet the coordinators and get into the Waltham group,” Stoker said.