‘McMurry Serves’ Local Nonprofits
By LORETTA FULTON
The T-shirts said “McMurry Serves” and the actions backed it up.
Fifteen McMurry representatives, including alumni, faculty, staff, students and a couple of “not yet War Hawks” sorted food and packed boxes Saturday morning at the Food Bank of West Central Texas. The effort was part of the “McMurry Serves” initiative sponsored by the Alumni & Friends office. No one was happier to see the group than Jamaica Gonzales, management analyst at the Food Bank, whose job includes lining up and directing volunteer groups.
“This is an every day, nonstop routine,” Gonzales said.
The food packing on Saturday morning was the first “McMurry Serves” event scheduled for February. Other groups will be assisting Habitat for Humanity on Tuesday, Feb. 15, and the Hendrick Bloodmobile on Friday, Feb. 18. Four events are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 19, at Curtis House Cultural Center, St. James United Methodist Church, Abilene Woman’s Club, and Aldersgate UMC.
Katelyn Scott is director of alumni engagement at McMurry, and Saturday was the first time for her to participate in the “McMurry Serves” event. She assisted in setting up the service projects, based on needs in the community.
“I know that food security is a big part of that,” she said.
For current student Ashlyn Quillan, a freshman from Van Alstyne, volunteering for “McMurry Serves” was a way to put into practice what she has learned in McMurry’s Servant Leadership program, led by Jeff Scott. A focus of the program is assisting people in your own community, Quillan said.
“How can I be of service to people around me?” is a question posed in the class.
Saturday’s service provided an answer for Quillan and Jocalyn Meyer, a junior from Delaware, who also is in the Servant Leadership program. The COVID pandemic has negatively affected many people, including those in Abilene, Meyer noted, and continues to do so.
“Some people are just down on their luck,” Meyer said.
The tables could be turned, she said, and she might be down on her luck. A helping hand would be appreciated.
Tim Sechrist, a 2001 McMurry graduate, is now director of financial aid. His daughter, Addy, a seventh-grader at Mann Middle School, was one of the “not yet a War Hawk” who helped out Saturday. Sechrist remembered doing service projects when he was a student, also through the Servant Leadership program.
“What we built in college,” he said, “has followed me through my life.”
Students from all three of Abilene’s universities are among the stream of volunteers that the Food Bank relies on to get its work done. The staff of 12, including five in the warehouse, couldn’t keep up with all the sorting and packing without volunteers, said Gonzales, who coordinates their efforts. Saturday’s work included packing boxes for distribution in Abilene and 13 counties in the area, plus bags for the Food Bank’s Backpack for Kids program, which provides food for weekends and days that school isn’t in session.
The Food Bank also sponsors “pop up” pantries whenever it receives a surplus. For example, Gonzales said, a truck might pull up with 22 pallets of onions–more than is needed at a particular time. Instead of letting the onions go to waste, “pop up” pantries are staged in town to give them away. It’s a better way to distribute food than saying “no” to a donor, Gonzales said.
“We’re never going to turn down a donation,” she said.
Normally, volunteers work in either morning or afternoon shifts Monday through Friday, but arrangements can be made for Saturdays, Gonzales said. COVID protocols are observed inside, including masks, gloves, and social distancing.
“They can reach out to us every day,” Gonzales said. “We’re easy to work with.”
Loretta Fulton is creator and editor of Spirit of Abilene