Student Life initiates Thanksgiving baskets

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that this year the country will produce 256 million turkeys, 649 million pounds of cranberries, and about 1.6 billion pounds of sweet potatoes, many of which are consumed on Thanksgiving. For those who cannot afford such abundance, however, Carnegie Mellon offers a solution: the Thanksgiving Basket Outreach Program.

This marks the seventh year of the Thanksgiving Basket Outreach Program. It was introduced through a community service initiative by Student Life in 1999 and has steadily increased in participation every year.

Residential houses, Greek chapters, student organizations, and University departments are asked to collect certain food items and put together a food basket, which will provide an underprivileged family with a complete and nutritious Thanksgiving meal. This year the program will benefit the Asera Care Hospice, Rainbow Kitchen, and Greater Love Outreach of Pittsburgh.

M. Shernell Smith, Student Development Coordinator, is in her third year heading this program and is pleased with the school?s solid participation. ?Usually we average around 30 to 40 baskets,? Smith said, ?but last year we moved upwards to 55 baskets.?

This success seems to be a result of the charity?s nature. ?People get excited about putting together baskets. Individual floors of residence halls, student organizations like Dance Marathon and DOCS, sororities and fraternities, and even groups of individual students will get involved,? Smith said.
Students and faculty have the opportunity to personalize the baskets by adding table decorations and notes; because of this, Smith said, ?each basket comes with its own flavor.?

Greater Love Outreach, an inner-city non-profit organization, takes pride in its mission to ?meet the needs of those who need the help most,? according to Robert Higgs, its Outreach Minister. The program is one of the three organizations benefiting from this year?s Thanksgiving Basket Outreach. Last year, Greater Love received 20 baskets. Higgs is excited about this year?s impact. ?Last year we took pictures of the families while they were receiving their baskets. It was a very special time,? he said.

Similar to Greater Love, Rainbow Kitchen Community Services supports low-income families and individuals; it is also benefiting from this year?s basket drive. Sandra Wolfe, the program director of Rainbow Kitchen, believes that what makes this program special is that it exceeds what is needed to provide a family with a Thanksgiving dinner. Wolfe said, ?It [the program] allows them the opportunity to sit down together and know that there are people in the world who give a gift from the heart with no expectations in return.?

Smith agrees. ?We could just be giving money out, but there?s something about the outward expression of putting together a basket that is really special,? she said.

Wolfe added, ?This is a great example that the youth of today have love and compassion that will sustain us for generations to come if it can be passed down.?

Baskets are due at the Student Development Office in Morewood Gardens A Tower by noon on Monday, November 21. For more information about the program, or if you are interested in creating a basket, e-mail M. Shernell Smith at or stop by the Student Development Office.