It is estimated that over 36,000 homeless men and women are left out in the cold each night, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.
Jill Sandoval, a Graduate Assistant in Campus Ministry, said that, “this is a population that gets ignored regularly, but any relief effort that goes to someone is a good thing.”
The call for people to make a charitable effort has been multiplied by the magnitude of natural disasters as of late. Efforts to help countries that were affected by the tsunami in 2004, and relief given to people affected by Hurricane Katrina have been extremely generous. However, there is a community of less fortunate people in our own city of New York that have been overshadowed by the catastrophic disasters.
Members of St. John’s student body have made an effort to feed and clothe the city’s homeless. St. John’s University belongs to a Metropolitan Association known as Midnight Run. Founded in 1984, the society runs solely on donations and help from volunteers.
St. John’s Midnight Run group meets every Wednesday in O’Connor Hall where they begin the preparation for the night’s events. Student volunteers, usually through groups they belong to or residence halls they live in, come to help prepare for the nights events.
Under the direction of Angie Gonzalez, Student Assistant to Midnight Run, bagged meals are made for the less fortunate.
The students are able to make 60 bagged meals to hand out at mapped and unmapped locations throughout the city.
The volunteers bring the bags of food as well as blankets, clothing, and much-needed toiletries to Manhattan to be given out at various locations. Freshman Ryan Kowalick volunteered to go on the run when his Resident Advisor asked the floor if anyone wanted to participate.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, but when I got there I realized the urgency and importance of what we were doing,” Kowalick said.
The group stops at Hunter College, Madison Square Park, and United Methodist Church, where each student hands out food to those who need it.
“These are regular spots that many of the participating Midnight Run groups stop to help as much as they can,” Gonzalez said.
At these locations hot food was also given out along with blankets and clothing.
“Midnight Run to me is more than making sandwiches and handing out coffee and soup,” Sandoval said. “It is about being able to bring a smile to their faces.”
Many of the men and women are left in higher spirits after visiting with the student volunteers.
“The five to 10 minutes that we spend, just talking and laughing may be more rewarding than the meal that they have just received,” Gonzalez said.
“This may be the action that carries them through this time in their lives and hopefully we help make a difference every night we go out,” she continued.
Gonzalez repeatedly stressed that donations of money and volunteer time are needed to keep the less fortunate clothed and fed.
While donations are important, recruiting volunteers is too. Many of these programs would not be possible without the people who are willing to lend a helping hand and do what they can, Gonzalez said.
“It is so uplifting to see the people who come on a Midnight Run once, and keep coming and want to participate in more events,” Sandoval said.
Students interested in volunteering or are asked to contact Campus Ministry either by visiting their office in Marillac Hall room 134 or by calling the office at 718-990-6255.