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Thursday, October 2, 2014
Students from across Long Island get first-hand look at plight of homeless
Aaron Axelson
Susan Grieco/Herald
Isa, a homeless man living in Manhattan, discusses his experience of being helped by the “Midnight Run” while Marianne Sheridan, Coordinator of Youth, Campus Ministry and Young Adults, Diocese of Rockville Centre and homeless man Malcolm look on.

More than 250 teenagers from across Long Island learned to be thankful for their homes and the food they can eat while attending the first Hunger Banquet at the Parish Center at St. Agnes on Oct. 20.

The goal of the program was dedicated to bridging the understanding between those “who have a lot, those who have a little and those who have none,” said Mary Dennis, Youth Minister for Curé of Ars based in Merrick. The idea for Hunger Banquet was drawn from Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization that works to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice.

According to Dennis, One of the main events of the night was the dinner, where the teenagers, with no previous knowledge, were split up randomly into three groups that represented poor, middle and high incomes.

Each teenager received a description of someone who would fit into that category of living and receive food according to his or her status; a pasta dinner for those in the high income group, rice and beans for those in the middle income group and only rice for those in the lowest bracket.

Changes occurred in status as someone would fictionally lose a job or a parent, and discussion between the teens was encouraged.

At another point in the evening, the teens made sandwiches, wrote cards and put together bags of cookies, chips and toiletries that were then brought into the city and distributed during a “midnight run.”

According to Marianne Sheridan, the coordinator of youth, campus ministry and young adults for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, the midnight run consisted of Hofstra students from the Catholic Campus Ministry taking the food and clothing collected by the diocese, as well as the cards, sandwiches and toiletries made by the teenagers, into Manhattan and distributing them to the city’s homeless.

Two homeless men were brought to the parish center to “bring real faces and life to the plight of the homeless and poor,” Sheridan said.

“Our intention is to bridge the ‘gap’ between the homeless and those ‘with homes,’” Sheridan added. “To see that there really isn’t much difference — except ‘life situations’ and circumstances that are sometimes beyond our control.”

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