Community celebrates 150 years of University, donates 150,000 meals


Ryan Fang

Sam Okrent, junior in Engineering, packages food during the fifth annual campus and community day of service on Saturday. Two thousand others came to Memorial Stadium to package meals for those in need.

By Karen Liu, Staff Writer

Two thousand community members came together at Memorial Stadium on Saturday with the intention of packing 150,000 meals for local food shelters during the fifth annual Community and Campus Day of Service.

“We do 1,000 meals for every year this school is established,” said Sam Okrent, vice president of operations at Illini Fighting Hunger, an RSO which provides meals to those in need.

The ready-to-boil meals will be sent to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank for distribution to its clients. The food bank also provides a list of recipes to meal recipients.

Kristen Costello, development and relations manager at the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, said  the food will be given directly to 200 agencies, which include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and any kind of emergency feeding programs.

Okrent said before the event they expected 1,300 volunteers from the campus community. The event ended up attracting around 2,000 volunteers, some as young as 5 years old.

Hosting the Day of Service cost around $17,000, including $12,000 spent on food.

The funds for the events come from donors in the area and many local businesses. The chancellor’s office also provides most of the non-food expenses, Okrent said.

Kari Roller, resident of Champaign, said that she learned about the event while watching television and decided to participate with her husband and two young sons.

“We thought it was a good way to get them involved in volunteering, helping others,” Roller said. “It’s hard with young ones to find things, so we thought it was a good opportunity to come out as a family.

Penny Lopez and Lindsey Shamloo are volunteers from the community. They waited in line from 10 a.m to 11:30 a.m so that they could be a part of the event.

“I had put together 20 people from different groups. We didn’t all know the other people so I started my day with a funky hat,” Lopez said.

Shamloo is a graduate student at Eastern Illinois University majoring in dietetics. She wanted to volunteer at the Day of Service because it is relevant to her major.

There were also students representing many different University organizations who volunteered.

Kip Kuster, senior in Business, is one of 40 members of the Student Alumni Ambassadors who volunteered at the Day of Service.

“We really enjoy service, so we get together at the big campus service (events) and volunteer,” Kuster said. “That’s something very important to our group, and promoting the spirit of Illinois in general.”

Kuster said that Illinois has many amazing student-run programs, and it’s great to have chances to showcase the different services that the University offers.

“I’m really proud that students on this campus have found a need to fight for, and found the resources to create a food packaging system that’s simple and easy,” Kuster said.

The Office Volunteer Program also had 15 students participate in the Day of Service. Francesca Fridman, junior in LAS, is one of them.

Fridman said that they have been involved in the event for the past few years and it’s fun to contribute to a good cause.

“It’s really cool that they make it a campuswide thing, so I get to bring my mom,” Fridman said. “I really have enjoyed doing that.”

Melinda Garrelts, program coordinator from the chancellor’s office, said that the event took a lot of preparation and volunteers working together, but turned out great.

“We’ve got great weather today, we got lots of enthusiastic people and it’s also mom’s weekend,” Garrelts said. “It’s a great opportunity for students to bring their moms, and do something together today to make a difference in the community.”

Garrelts said that all of the shifts were full and they had to open extra shifts because of the large number of volunteers that showed up.

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