Fairfield's University's Hunger Cleanup program wins top national award

Fairfield University students have won the 1997 Gold Medal for Overall Excellence from Hunger Cleanup, a national program that attracts thousands of students each year from 120 participating colleges and universities. Garnering the silver award was the University of Wisconsin, while the University of Indiana took the bronze. The award was presented on campus on Feb. 6 at half-time of the Stags-St. Peter's basketball game.

This is the third consecutive year that Fairfield has been recognized with overall excellence awards, winning the gold in 1995, the silver in 1996, and for greatest participation in 1994. Fairfield first participated in the program in 1989.

Scott Middlemiss, a senior, is chairing the '98 Hunger Cleanup after serving as a co-chair last year. If you are interested in participating on Saturday, March 28, call co-chair Laura Taylor at 256-7143. Also serving as co-chairs are senior Kristine Reidway and sophomore Jennifer Mazzo.

Julie Miles, executive director of the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, praised Fairfield "for helping to set a strong model for the rest of the country." Fairfield, she noted, has focused on building community. "It was a big coalition effort they mobilized with a significant number of volunteers." In addition to individual volunteers, several campus groups support the effort. In 1997 Circle K joined for the first time and already the men's and women's basketball teams and the Glee Club have signed on for 1998.

The national recognition has brought a sense of pride and accomplishment to the Fairfield campus, but Carolyn Rusiackas, an assistant university chaplain who serves as advisor for the Hunger Cleanup committee, points out that the award is secondary. "It's the doing. The helping is the motivation."

And that helping involved removing litter and providing fresh paint at 31 parks, schools, senior citizen housing and shelters, mostly in Fairfield County last April. By collecting pledges for their efforts, the volunteers raised over $5,000, a 42 percent increase over the $3,530 raised the year before. The number of volunteers increased as well to 412 from 350.

To attract such large and diverse volunteers a 23-member committee started meeting in October of 1996, headed by three co-chairs, then-seniors Kiersten Barrett and Kelly Ann McManus and then-junior Scott Middlemiss. A good part of the effort was spent on finding non-profit agencies that needed help with cleanup or painting and then matching the right people to the jobs. The committee designed t-shirts and distributed them to all participants. They also invited volunteers to a simple meal of bread and soup the week before the event to re-emphasize what Hunger Cleanup is all about.

Fairfield students volunteer throughout the year at over 40 sites in the Greater Bridgeport area, so there are always plenty of opportunities available for students who find Hunger Cleanup whets their appetite for more volunteer work.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 1, 1998

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