Centre College recently held its annual Poverty and Homelessness Week, an initiative to help bring awareness and combat these important issues on a local and state level, with this year’s emphasis being on Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia.
Throughout the week, the campus community had the opportunity to participate in a variety of conversations with 16 guest speakers and engage in a variety of awareness activities, including a convocation with former Kentucky Governor Paul Patton, the Food Insecurity Dinner and a “Think Outside the Box” event, among other activities.
This year, 795 students, faculty, staff and community members were involved in Poverty & Homelessness Week. A total of 43 student groups participated, in addition to nine faculty departments, three local schools, 13 community partnerships and 33 residence hall programs.
Collectively, the initiative resulted in 850 hours of service and 561.5 hours of training and enrichment.
As part of the week-long event, Centre also held its annual hygiene product drive, where the campus collected a variety of unopened hygiene products.
“We were able to pack 180 gallon-sized bags for individuals and families, which is the biggest year we’ve had in the four years STAND: The Student Service Initiative has been doing this,” said Hannah Gibbs ’19, Poverty & Homelessness Week coordinator.
The individual adult bags typically include soap, shampoo, deodorant, a comb, hand sanitizer, a toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving cream, lotion, feminine products, razors and a combination of other items that have been donated.
Family bags include larger amounts of each item, as well as products specifically for children.
These items are delivered to The Nest Care Center in Lexington, which is a space for individual and family survivors of domestic violence that provides a shelter to live and access to other resources.
A week-long fundraiser was also held as part of Centre’s Poverty & Homelessness Week. This year, the money benefited the Backpack Club, which provides food for the weekend for 1,400 food-insecure children in three counties in Eastern Kentucky.
Opportunities to give throughout the week included a GoFundMe page and Venmo for general donations, in addition to the annual Friday Night Cowan Swipe donations.
“Our main activity for fundraising was getting sponsors for ‘Think Outside the Box,’ where those staying out all night reached out to professors and others to sponsor them for the twelve-hour block of activities, and it was very successful,” Gibbs added. “We also had our highest number of swipes ever with 357 donated.”
Gibbs said she is incredibly proud and ecstatic about how the week went.
“People were engaged, and they were talking about the events,” she added. “They were attending them in large number, and we had the biggest week turnout we’ve had in a long time, maybe ever. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive and people seemed to get a lot out of the sessions that we hosted.”
Gibbs said that she wants to give credit to the Poverty & Homelessness Week committee and the specific event committee members who did an extraordinary job this year with each activity. In addition, she would like to thank Rick Axtell, H. W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Religion and campus chaplain, whom she has worked with since last November to get everything scheduled and rally campus involvement.
“I also would like to say that it’s not over,” she added. “We are scheduling both service and educational events for the spring related to poverty and homelessness, but also to the culture and history of Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia. Our plan is for the initiative in the future to be a year-long focus, and we’re excited to hopefully get some of that beginning this year.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
November 20, 2018