December 22, 2016
WCU has a long history of helping students overcome barriers to completing their degrees, but did you know that the University enrolls more than 30 homeless students annually? These and other low-income WCU students cannot afford some basic necessities, including the top five: non-perishable food, winter apparel, business attire, school supplies, and simple toiletries.
"A student may feel the need to have to choose between buying a textbook or a meal, because they don't have a meal plan," says Tori Weigant Nuccio, assistant director of financial aid. She often works with unaccompanied youth ages 18 through 24 who have no parent to turn to and are facing financial hardships. "They may even have to turn down an interview for a great job or a hard-to-come-by internship, because they don't have a suit. We just can't have that."
Thanks to Nuccio, these remarkable and determined young people are being identified and efforts are underway to support them. To address their needs, she has collaborated with the Office of Service Learning and Volunteer Programs and is working with a 20-member advisory council as the new West Chester University Resource Pantry enters a "soft launch" two years in the making.
And that start-up period might have been longer were it not for Dave '68 and Pat Holveck '69. The Holvecks' Lightening the Load Foundation is funding the first three years of the resource pantry's operating expenses, allowing the pantry to acquire such start-up essentials as a phone, a computer, clothing racks, and hangars.
WCU alumna and President of the Lightening the Load Foundation Pat Holveck was moved to action after reading a Philadelphia Inquirer article about the University's efforts to support students in need. "Everyone has challenges and we do not want these students to be defined by their life circumstances. They are not alone. … We are delighted to be part of this impressive work."
Jennifer Ginelli, a trustee of the foundation and the Holvecks' daughter, adds, "In speaking with Tori, we were enlightened about the gaps. … It's about graduating, getting a job, having the right resources, and getting students on their way. It is not about focusing on what is missing, but focusing on where students are trying to go."
The resource pantry is located in Lawrence Hall in a discrete location, accessed via a private entrance and a disused stairwell. Most of the food inventory comes from the Chester County Food Bank.
"Monetary gifts are always appreciated, because it gives the ability to purchase exactly what is being asked for at a specific time," notes Nuccio. To donate, contact Christine Mackin at the WCU Foundation: firstname.lastname@example.org; 610-436-2868. To discuss how to make a referral or to volunteer, email email@example.com.Read more about the pantry and those involved in the Fall issue of the WCU Magazine