by Zachary Petroff | staff writer
April 28, 2022
A group of volunteers donned Duquesne red hair nets and worked vigorously, shouting words of encouragement to one another across the arena. In roughly two hours, the sea of volunteers packaged 75,000 meals, a monumental way for the newest generation of Dukes to start their time on the Bluff.
“We don’t have time to chit-chat, we’re working here,” said the mother of a newly accepted student, her voice competing with the loud music playing in the background and the chaos of bells ringing throughout the arena.
“Is this a competition?” asked another volunteer.
“I don’t know, but we’re treating it like one,” the mother responded, never breaking stride from her tasks.
With that, she and her station went back to work completing tasks to stay on pace with the other 18 tables.
On Sunday, newly admitted students, faculty, and student volunteers teamed up with the U.S. Hunger organization to pack 75,000 meals that would be distributed to the Loaves and Fishes food pantry and Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
Over 500 incoming students and families along with around 120 volunteers were able to meet the goal in a little over two hours.
“We had a great turnout, not only on the [accepted students] side but then of course we opened it to the Duquesne community, faculty, staff and students and just seeing all those numbers come in and seeing folks come out seeing the president there, the provost there. It was just great to see,” said Nicholas Reffuge, director of campus visit experience and enrollment event management.
Duquesne is the first university in Pennsylvania to incorporate newly admitted students with a volunteering event with the local community.
Newly admitted students and their families gathered inside the Cooper Fieldhouse, and were assigned a station led by one of the volunteer student ambassadors. The student ambassadors assigned specific tasks to the volunteers, gave instructions, oversaw production and provided a level of excitement to motivate their teams.
Once the stations began working, music blared throughout the arena, words of encouragement were being shouted and the sound of bells signaling a table had filled a food box echoed throughout the gymnasium. There was a level of intensity not often found in an accepted student function.
“I love being here,” said Jared Weyers, senior student ambassador. Like many of the student ambassadors, Weyers was flying all over the gymnasium in order to meet the goal.
“I think it shows that we’re a nice community here at Duquesne, although we do study, we show our academic program stuff and we also help our community. It shows the students here are more than just students. As we always say, we’re servant leaders,” Weyers said.
The U.S. Hunger organization, based out of Florida, travels across the country to help battle food insecurity, an issue that the Economic Research Service from the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated affected 38.3 million Americans in 2020.
Brianna Blanchard, event leader for U.S. Hunger, believes that their work of feeding families can inspire those in need today to help those in need in the future. Blanchard and her crew help create a fun environment to keep volunteers engaged at their tasks.
“The kids were super enthusiastic, they came ready to work and definitely poured their hearts into this, so it was quite fun. We had music going, we had dancing – they really took to it. It was interesting to hear how passionate they were about where the meals were going. It wasn’t just a fun activity for them, they were really concerned about how this was serving the community, who it was going to, and how those people were going to get meals. That was impressive to me,” said Blanchard.
Among the members of the faculty that included President Ken Gormley, students from various organizations and groups volunteered their time on Sunday, including members from the women’s swim team and women’s soccer team.
“We’re starting to get a lot more into volunteering,” said sophomore Jaimi Araujo – forward for the Duquesne women’s soccer team.
She also said that the team is looking to partner with the school for more opportunities. They plan on holding a suicide prevention game in the fall.
Incoming students were not only able to give back to the community but were also able to experience first-hand the welcoming environment that the university is known for with this unique admission event.
“Everyone wants to give back and help everyone, so it makes perfect sense to do an event like this because the community is already set up to be extremely giving and extremely helpful,” Reffuge said. “They just want to lift everyone up and help everyone be the best version of themselves.”