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Student Volunteers Pack Up Leftover Food from Campus Events for Delivery to Union Mission

On Saturday at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, the ODU men's basketball team will play conference-leading Drexel on Senior Day. It's the last home game for seniors Kent Bazemore, Chris Cooper, Trian Iliadis and Marquel DeLancey to soak up the cheers of a sold-out crowd.

After the cheers have died down, however, a different "team" will arrive at the Ted, quietly carrying out its game plan of making a difference in the community.

For the past year, a group of dedicated volunteers has arrived at the Constant Center after every event - frequently late at night - packing up the leftover food enjoyed by basketball fans or concertgoers. Then that food is lovingly delivered to homeless and hungry area residents.

The "Rock and Wrap It" program is a partnership between ODU Aramark, the Center for Service and Civic Engagement in the university's Office of Student Activities and Leadership, and Union Mission.

The food, which previously would have been thrown out, is packaged for transport to Union Mission by the volunteers, including members of the international student organization Global Student Friendship. The food is used to feed hungry local residents the next day.

"By doing this, perfectly good food that would otherwise be thrown away is saved and used to feed the less fortunate at the mission. It's a wonderful way to help the Norfolk community," said Janet McLaughlin, resident district manager with Aramark.

The program started last winter with games and concerts at the Ted, but has since expanded to include football games at Foreman Field and events in Webb Center. The food collection has occurred more than 60 times. International students from countries as far-flung as India, Chad, Nepal, Ukraine and Namibia have participated in the project, says Kurnia Foe, an ODU doctoral engineering student who leads Global Student Friendship.

"We saw this opportunity as a service fitted to the mission of Global Student Friendship, a student group that cares for and serves internationals and the local community," Foe said.

"I think the homeless shelter at Union Mission Ministries is a good choice since Union Mission really depends on the generosity of the local community to support their charity and noble service to the homeless."

The 120-year-old Union Mission couldn't be more appreciative of the efforts of ODU staff and students, and for the donations.

"We do not receive any state or federal funding but rely solely on the generosity of friends like you to help us do this work we've been called to do," said Linda Jones, Union Mission public relations director.

Tami Park Farinholt, coordinator of the Center for Service and Civic Engagement, said the program was a natural fit for the center's mission. "When we were approached by Aramark, we thought that it was a unique opportunity for our students to see firsthand a creative way to reduce waste and assist those in need, two things we are very passionate about in the center," she said.

To get involved in future "Rock and Wrap It" events, contact Chellam Chockalingam, the international student leader of Global Student Friendship's "food for the homeless" committee, at cchoc001@odu.edu, or the Center for Service and Civic Engagement at volunteer@odu.edu.