As the aprons, hairnets and latex gloves went on, so did the smiles.
Over 20 student volunteers from the paralegal and law clerk programs came together at the Ottawa Mission on March 20 to head a dinner service funded entirely through their efforts.
The students started fundraising in September to be able to cover the cost of one meal. They organized bake sales, raffled goodie-baskets and planned a comedy night event in an effort to raise the money they needed. The minimum amount of funds required to supply the dinner is $1,500.
After months of dedication, they raised over $1,700.
“It’s really satisfying to know that we as a group of students raised this money on our own and here we are giving back to people who are disadvantaged and hungry,” said David Elliott, second-year paralegal student. “The fruits of our labour really showed.”
Their initiative was connected with Lawyers Feed the Hungry, a non-profit organization in Ontario that gathers the legal community together to raise funds for the homeless. Students and professionals within the legal field can become directly involved with serving a meal at the shelter the third Thursday of every month.
Over half of the profit earned was through the two bake sales organized by the students last semester. The paralegal and law clerk students held their bake sales separately. This year, it was a competition between the two programs.
“There’s always been that little ‘thing’ between the paralegals and the law clerks,” said Allysha Estabrooks, law clerk intensive student. “Friendly competition, if you will. It was incentive to get more people involved, that’s for sure.”
Elliott, Estabrooks, and second-year paralegal student Jessica Novini were all essential players in the co-ordination of the bake sales. They recruited most of the volunteers involved.
The paralegal and law clerk programs have been collaborating with Lawyers Feed the Hungry for four years now and the student participation this year was the most it has ever been. According to Francine Roach, law clerk program co-ordinator, although the students involved all have busy schedules, they still went above and beyond for their cause – even going class to class to recruit other legal students to be volunteers.
“These are engaged students,” said Roach. “To take the time to do this, to me, demonstrates a lot of character.
“It’s great for students to give back when they’re really busy.”
This is the first year that the Lawyers Feed the Hungry initiative will be added to the students’ co-curricular records, an official document recognizing their time and effort as volunteers.
“The volunteer record gives that credibility and authorization for an employer,” said Novini, who was involved in last year’s Mission meal as well. “But not only is the experience great on your resume – it’s great for the soul.”
Hundreds of hungry people lined up outside the Mission before the doors even opened for dinner at 3 p.m. The meal lasted two hours and hosted about 300 people in total.
The room was a frenzy of people coming and going, greeting and laughing, spilling and cleaning.
In order to keep the meal going smoothly, each volunteer was assigned a role either setting, serving, scraping, pouring or clearing.
“There’s no use crying over spilt milk,” said law clerk professor Adriana Mello, with a smile. Her apron was freshly splattered with traces of chocolate milk while her latex hands steadily scraped away at the mountain of plates. She was a scraper.
“Just smile – it’s part of the whole experience,” she said.