Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Students from the School of Medicine organized the 23nd annual University of Maryland Project Feast, a Thanksgiving meal for homeless and disadvantaged persons held November 22, 2012 in West Baltimore. Students, faculty and staff from all of the University's professional schools gathered at Booker T. Washington Middle School to host the midday meal. They also provided free clothing, non-perishable food items, blood pressure screenings and a warm, safe place for those who had nowhere else to celebrate the holiday.
Project Feast is a Thanksgiving tradition co-sponsored by the Medical Alumni Association, the University Student Government Association, and the School of Medicine Student Council. More than 100 students from across the campus helped to organize and staff the event. Amanda Wong, MPH, a second-year medical student, was one of the organizers of this year's event.
"Around 400 people were served lunch, mostly men but there were a fair number of couples and families," Amanda says. "Ms. Sheila Travers, the middle school’s cafeteria manager, was there the night before to help prepare sides and the cooked turkey we brought her. She arrived at 6am on Thanksgiving Day to start the bulk of the cooking. We (the organizers) arrived at 7:30am to start setting up, and volunteers started arriving at 8am, as did attendees, who lined up outside to wait for the doors to open at 10."
The experience had quite an impact on Amanda, who was far from home on the holiday. "I’m originally from California – I moved here for medical school – and don’t have many ties to the community. Medical school sometimes seems so all-consuming that I feel it’s my only community here. But working on Project Feast changed that: I felt as though I was finally a part of this city. Most of our volunteers were associated with the University of Maryland, but we were all here for a common purpose: to make Thanksgiving special for everyone, even strangers we never even look at on the street."
The event also had a great impact on those who were fed. "I had an opportunity to sit and talk to a number of the attendees as they ate," Amanda says. "One man was here for the first time – he’d heard about it from a shelter he’d recently stayed at. He told me that he couldn’t believe that this existed, and that he could take as much food with him as he wanted. His last meal was a day ago and he was grateful for this and the warm clothes donations. He said that he wished more people could have known about it and promised to spread the word. He also thanked every single volunteer who walked past him."
If you are interested in joining next Thanksgiving's event, email ProjectFeastUMD@gmail.com after September 1, 2013 for more information.
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