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Halloween for the Hungry inspires service

By Celia Young

Section: News

November 3, 2017

Waltham Group kicked off Halloween with a day of trick or treating for non-perishable foods as part of the annual Halloween for the Hungry Food Drive.
The food drive is one part of a series of mostly fall-themed community events organized by Waltham Group, including Halloween for the Hungry, the October Blood drive and the mini day of service.
This year’s Halloween for the hungry food drive is the Waltham group’s 31st. Fifty-seven volunteers spent the Sunday before Halloween “trick-or-treating” for non-perishable food items and other donations by going door to door in local Waltham neighborhoods.
Though the organization collected 2,608 donatable food items (excluding other non-food items), the total was less than past years, and the group plans on returning the weekend after Halloween. All collected goods are donated to the Middlesex Human Services Agency.
The food drive in the past has taken place on Halloween, but due to scheduling conflicts, it moved this year. This caused some confusion among local Waltham residents on the date of the event, according to Janis Li ’21, a volunteer coordinator with the Waltham group.
Li praised the event as being a model of volunteerism not only for Brandeis students, but for members of the Waltham community. “[My favorite] experience…was probably going up to houses and meeting families who really cared about our cause and socialized with us ‘trick-or-treaters.’” She said some even brought their children to talk to the volunteers, and presented them as role models for the children.
The group plans to return the afternoon of Nov. 5 to pick up more donation items. Student interested in participating should contact walthamgroup@gmail.com.
Waltham Group’s October Blood Drive ran from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1, collecting about 60 pints of blood within the first two days. Partnering with the American Red Cross in the Sherman function hall, the Waltham group organized several nurse’s stations and tables of food, including pizza from Chateau and Sodexo.
Donors checked in with a group of volunteers, then filled out waivers in order to donate. Some donors had to be turned away due to not meeting the requirements, which deal mainly with weight, height, age, traveling and medical records. The requirements aim to prevent fainting spells in donors.
Two Waltham Group coordinators, Brandon Stanaway ’19 and Krithika Chagari ’19 explained that turning away donors is fairly common. “It happens,” Stanaway said, “It’s going to happen no matter what… It’s out of our control.”
Chagari explained the requirements and available nurses were equipped to deal with fainting, and often more individuals were scheduled to donate during the registration period than stations were available in order to account for those turned away.
Chagari also discussed some of the reasons she works with the Waltham group. “I think just being a part of that community and having like a group of coordinators that we work with constantly,” Chagari said. “We’ve all gotten very close and I just like that feeling of community.” “It’s a good community,” Stanaway added.
Last year, Waltham Group collected about 110 pints of blood during the October Blood Drive, and over 700 pints including all three yearly blood drives, according to a Brandeis Hoot article from Oct. 21, 2016. In 2013 Halloween for the Hungry collected 3,500 nonperishable items and canned goods, according to an article in The Hoot from Oct. 14, 2014.
The Mini Day of Service is brought by the Community Connections group, a subset of the Waltham group. This is the first mini day of service, and Community Connections will host three total mini days of service on Nov. 5, Feb. 3 and Mar. 4.
For the upcoming mini day of service, three events are planned. Volunteers will be going to Samfund, a Boston organization that tries to financially support cancer survivors; Land’s Sake, a farm in Weston which educates students on agriculture, ecology and local history; and NuDay in New Hampshire, where volunteers will help sort donations for Syrian refugees. The organization expects 50 volunteers to attend.
Waltham Group, a secured club connected to the Department of Community Service, is a student-led organization established in 1966 that runs outreach programs on campus, in Waltham and in Boston. Waltham Group has 75 student leaders which oversee programs and volunteers.
Two more blood drives are scheduled for February and April. Waltham Group meets every Monday night from 7 to 8 p.m. in the SCC multipurpose room.

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