Megan Hayes | News Editor
Eastern's 15th annual day of giving at Hurley Hall. / easternct.edu/magazines, 2022
For the longest time, sharing meals or “breaking bread” together has been a sign of peace, familiarity and openness – which is exactly what we all want to experience during this holiday season. To share food with someone is to offer vulnerability and companionship, which we don’t often get to experience, but should be something we aim for as a community. While we are all here studying at Eastern, we are growing as people not only for our own benefit, but also for the benefit of others – we are learning to be more giving and to grow and flourish as people. For Thanksgiving 2023, Eastern Connecticut State University’s student volunteers, faculty, and dining services have again organized a Day of Giving to feed our Willimantic community. This year, Eastern’s Hurley Hall is preparing to feed 400 people in the local area for the seventeenth annual occurrence of this event. This event, which has become a staple for the community and one of the most important outreach events of the season, is planned to have a great turnout as it has been a massive success for the past years (minus one from COVID-19). This event aims to provide a full, sit-down meal for those in the community that may not get to eat a full Thanksgiving meal, and foster connections between our local Connecticut community and the University.
Eastern’s 2023 Day of Giving is scheduled to occur on Wednesday, November 22nd, the day before Thanksgiving. Eastern’s residence halls are closing at 6pm on Tuesday, November 21st, which ensures Hurley Hall has ample room to host this event. Food will be served continuously from 11am to 1pm, with full seating available all throughout the dining hall. This is coordinated by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) as well as Chartwells, who provides Eastern’s food. The Center for Community Engagement handles student outreach around the Willimantic area, and allows students to connect with the community by volunteering. Other events that the CCE holds are food pantries, blood drives, cleaning up community gardens, on campus events, and more.
For those planning to attend, transportation will be offered by Eastern’s shuttle buses from Ashton Towers (621 Valley Street) at 10:45am, Father Honan Terrace (10 Valley Street Extension) at 11:10am , and the Covenant Soup Kitchen (220 Valley Street) at 11:30am and 12:00pm. This was organized by Arka Mikel of the Willimantic Housing Authority, Kate McCarthy Cox from the Windham Senior Center, and Kim Clark from the Covenant Soup Kitchen, and of course Eastern and the Center for Community Engagement, by Lana O’Connor.
Community meals such as Eastern’s Day of Giving have many benefits, all which contribute to a boost in our wellbeing. As we all know, humans are social creatures, and we love to be included in a group in which we feel valued, appreciated and wanted. Social gatherings such as meals together can quickly build connections and community with those around you, and lead to healthier dynamics, especially when getting to know those you are not familiar with. For those that are both serving the meals, like Chartwells and the CCE, as well as those partaking in the meals can experience benefits from sharing. Helping others or being helped evokes gratitude, which helps us to feel happier, healthier, and more empathetic - which is exactly the spirit we should embody as we are closing off this year and moving into the next.