Students donate to help local nonprofit feed hungry

At right, Brian Boyer and Carrie Worley from the WCU Department of Residential Living unload food donated by WCU students at the Community Table in Sylva.

From right, Carrie Worley and Brian Boyer with the WCU Department of Residential Living unload food donated by WCU students at the Community Table in Sylva.

Western Carolina University students recently donated more than $12,000 worth of food and merchandise through the annual end-of-year C-Store Buy-Out program to help the Community Table in Sylva alleviate hunger. The nonprofit organization offers free, nutritious meals and a free food pantry to people who are in need.

“It’s almost overwhelming,” said Brian Boyer, a residential case manager with the WCU Department of Residential Living and a C-Store Buy-Out program coordinator. “Our students have shown a lot of heart.”

Students donated baking mixes, pasta, tomato sauce, cleaning supplies and other items that they purchase at the campus Courtyard C-Store or designated a portion of unspent money from their Campus Dining meal plans for the program to assist the Community Table. With the money designated for donation, Aramark, WCU’s food service partner and a partner in the C-Store Buy-Out program along with the Western Carolina PEAKS residential program, purchased items needed at the nonprofit organization.

Preparing to unload end-of-year donations from WCU students to the Community Table are WCU and Aramark staff members, front row from left, Carrie Worley, Laura Ansley and Sarah Caruso, and, back row from left, Brian Boyer and Greg Smith.

Preparing to unload end-of-year donations from WCU students to the Community Table are WCU and Aramark staff members, front row from left, Carrie Worley, Laura Ansley and Sarah Caruso, and, back row from left, Brian Boyer and Greg Smith.

Amy Grimes Sims, executive director of the Community Table, said she was thrilled by the size of this year’s donations.

“This food will be a huge help to so many people who visit our food pantry and will be used to fill in the gaps between our twice monthly shipments from MANNA FoodBank,” said Sims. “Believe it or not, a truckload of food is typically gone within two days because the need for our pantry is so high.”

In 2013, the Community Table served 22,138 meals and provided 7,527 food boxes, she said.

Boyer said he has been moved in recent years to see students become increasingly involved with the nonprofit organization. During the fall and spring semesters, students participating in the Band of Brothers Living-Learning Community with which he works volunteer every Friday to put food on plates, bus tables, wash dishes and assist with the food box program.

“Their participation gives them so much perspective and reminds them they are not just a student but also a member of a community,” said Boyer.

Sarah Caruso, Aramark marketing coordinator at WCU, said the company’s staff members are pleased to partner on the C-Store Buy-Out program to make it possible for students to donate to help people who are in need.

“Community outreach is very important to Aramark and the Community Table plays an important role in reducing and eliminating hunger locally,” said Caruso. “We think this is an excellent opportunity for everyone involved.”