Holiday Season Bustling with Community Service at Scranton

December 7, 2015

For many families with children, a Christmas-morning routine involves getting up early, making a mad dash toward the presents and staying in new pajamas for hours before going, perhaps, over the river and through the woods.

For Chloe Strickland, however, a junior counseling and human-services major at The University of Scranton and a South Scranton resident, that routine has for years included a trip back to the University’s campus to help with an annual tradition of serving a free breakfast feast offering much-needed companionship for a couple of hours to those who may not have anyone else with whom to spend the holiday.

Last year, in the greater Scranton area, 690 people showed up on the third floor of the DeNaples Center enjoyed the meal and friendly company. The University expects a similar or larger crowd this year as it once again extends the same invitation to the community.

Strickland will be present with her mother, Sheila Strickland, a staff member in the University’s graduate school for the past nine years, and other members of her family, creating a tradition the family now would never miss.

“To see so many people smile is very special,” Chloe Strickland said.

The breakfast includes scrambled eggs, pancakes, potatoes, bagels, sausage, juice, coffee and more – all donated by Aramark.

“It is open to anyone who wants to come,” said Patricia Vaccaro, director of the University Campus Ministries’ Center for Service and Social Justice, explaining the open-door, no-reservations-required policy. “We open this up to anyone who is alone. They might be homeless, jobless or just need company on the holiday.”

Well before the first seating at 8 a.m. and for some time after the last seating at 10:30 a.m., hundreds of University employees also join guests as helpers, greeters and servers.

The widespread support always impresses Vaccaro, but it’s far from the only day of the year she witnesses such an outpouring of love on campus. In fact, the entire pre-Thanksgiving to Christmas Day period is one of the busiest for the hundreds who support all of the University’s holiday-related efforts.

Most recently, those efforts included another annual service project, a Thanksgiving food drive. More than 150 students raised money and purchased enough food to fill meal baskets for 225 families at the Valley View Housing Development, Vaccaro said.

The students, together with about 40 faculty and staff volunteers, assembled the food and delivered it to the housing complex, with which it has had a long relationship through Friends of the Poor.

On the day of the food drive, members of the lacrosse team kicked things off, Vaccaro said, by meeting the delivery driver from Schiff’s Restaurant Service and emptying the truck. More volunteers followed at regular intervals and kept things orderly as the families waited in line for the baskets and volunteers then walked them back to their apartments.

Chloe Strickland and her family also have been involved with this food drive for the past three years, since her first year at the University.

“You hear their stories, and … wow,” she said, noting the project always makes her feel lucky to have what she has.

Faculty and staff also donated money for the food purchases, and the Jesuit Center provided transportation and covered the cost of a significant number of the baskets, Vaccaro said.

And just as the Thanksgiving Food Drive concluded, the next holiday charitable collection was under way.

Through the Adopt-an-Angel toy drive, faculty, staff or students can take the name of a Head Start child and buy them a toy and an outfit. The University also constructs a Giving Tree, Vaccaro said, offering an option for generous supporters to buy a gift according to age and gender for more than 150 children. The gifts are given to Friends of the Poor’s toy giveaway, in addition to children at the Community Christmas Day Breakfast.

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